Jodie Lowther & A.R.C. Soundtracks
The Blow Volume 4 (Front & Follow; CS/DL)
SPLIT/TAPE (not personality): As partly heard on yesterday’s radio podcast, transmitted from Italy, via the collaboration of Toneshift.net x Uncertain Sounds, here we have a review, in full, of the latest split tape from Jodie Lowther & A.R.C. Soundtracks, The Blow Volume 4. Just released this week, the tape is a whipsmart pairing of a solo artist and a duo, crossover and dissimilar, all with relatively minimal output to date. The Blow series from Manchester’s Front & Follow is quite unique, having brought together other groupings in the past: IX Tab & Hoofus; Time Attendant & Howlround; and Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley. Here we have eleven solo tracks by Lowther, and a single 28.5 min. long piece by A.R.C. Soundtracks, plus a single track where they collaborate.
The album opens on side one with Lowther’s work, and track one is The Trees. It’s a gauzy, illuminated ambient work of voice that is somehow even more ghostly and angelic than Julee Cruise, with varying shades of lightness. It’s airy, right into Hall of Faces, where a faint piano paints in a chamber of echoes. These short tracks are like aural haikus, where voices come and go, and assorted electronic effects rev on Sea Fret only bubbling up for ninety seconds and then released back into the misty harmonic synth and sweet drone of Tourmaline. Here the tingling dreamlike atmosphere is awash in haloed tones as if a music box ballerina has started pirhouetting. The starry-eyed layers are perfectly elusive here, spilling cursively into the gorgeous Dream Of The Melting Plane, where her added vocal treatment blends like rain into the ocean.
The beat, like said ocean waves, repeat on Delirium Sea showing off the breadth of diversity from an artist with something to say through her music. Even with it’s cascading humming it’s a bit incidental in context with the whole record, repetitive and a break from the otherwise dramatic flair it’s sandwiched with. Spiral Ascending is just that, a bit of a mystical staircase-like countdown that could easily be used in a childlike soundtrack for anything from the worlds of Narnia or Harry Potter. And on the following tracks you remain locked in this world of golden harmonies encrusted with a certain patina, at times a bit mysterious, but never too dark. Though I could imagine Fish Eye being a lead-up to something slightly more lurid and not yet in the immediate cellular scope as it’s tone dips down with layered drones approaching the grayer area of things.
The Occasional Sleeper is the one collaboration here. It starts off with a perplexing drone, and an almost elusively inaudible voice, embedded deeply into the background. A slow churning balance between darkness and light puts this track in a levitating limbo. It’s shadowy noir with a low hum reverberation that is just slightly ajar toward its end.
SOUNDTRACK OF A (NEW) GENERATION: Taken Up & Dissolved is side two and it belongs to A.R.C. Soundtracks. Lowther’s sweet disembodied female voice continues to a haunted howl into a background that blends broken percussion, random sound effects and sparse spoken word (taken from 1963’s Human Space by Otto Bollnow). The duo of K Craig and David Armes wield reverberating drums that float like bloated jellyfish. Time-released single keystrokes and shooting synths combine with a heartbeat percussion about ten minutes in, and it’s quite effective and slightly funky, albeit a bit ‘big brother’ in theme. The voice discusses threat, security, danger and the disproportion of gravity. If you’ve seen the Me & My Rhythm Box scene in the cult classic Liquid Sky you gain a hint to the atmosphere this may draw from, along with Kubrickian thrillers. It’s a copious melange of murky accouterments that is self-defined, but left for your interpretation.