Switched on – Aārp – Propaganda (InFiné)

What’s the story?

Aārp is an intriguing figure. Having started out as a viola player in an orchestra, the producer – whose real name is elusive – found his head turned by electronic music, specifically the likes of Squarepusher, Amon Tobin and Oneohtrix Point Never. His love of classical and exploratory electronic music spills over into a full length record for InFiné, his first album Propaganda.

With a title like that it is no surprise to report a political slant to Aārp’s thinking. It is a response to the tragedy of a young festival-goer in Nantes who drowned following a police altercation – and specifically a response to how that tragedy was reported and spun by the press. Aārp was inspired to create a series of tracks, each given the title of an important quote from world news that was treated in a similar way.

What’s the music like?

While it sounds like he is working with a heavy subtext, it is great to report that Aārp does not get too weighed down by his subject matter. In fact the opposite is true, as Propaganda has moments of light and shade, seriousness and humour. It is a restless piece of work, full of riffs that never quite stay still but go really well with his beat making. Nothing is off the table here and there is a lot of excellent work by instinct.

Ca fuit de partout sets the tone with a descending motif that has a quirky edge, which Condamnez-vous les violences? runs with, the riffs becoming more oblique. The Axis of Evil is a thrilling ride, glitchy beats preceded by a blast of rich organ chords. Meanwhile on The Herbicide That Gets To The Root Of The Problem, riffs flit across the stereo picture like birds not quite settling, the music hyperactive and uneasy.

Not all Aārp’s writing is as packed with events as the opening trio. His descending motif gets a different perspective in the more introspective Less than 1% of Patients Become Addicted, while darkness descends with the low threat of Nada es gratis en esta vida, a short but heavily loaded track.

Some of his soundscapes are really impressive – try the breadth of vision from I Prefer a Liberal Dictator to Democratic Government Lacking Liberalism, or Les malheureux sont les puissances de la Terre, which moves from what sounds like electronic steelpans to pinball-style beats and shimmering chords.

Does it all work?

As an album, yes – because Aārp has a distinctive style that constantly asks questions of its surroundings. The duration might be relatively short but a lot happens in 35 minutes! The bursts of hyperactivity might also be a bit too much for some, with a short attention span meaning some of the ideas don’t get developed as fully as they might, but the album follows a compelling path which rewards repeated listening.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Aarp has a fresh approach to electronic music that works rather well, and although the topics covered by Propaganda are pretty weighty, the responses to them offer blasts of fresh air.

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