Switched On – Arp: New Pleasures (Mexican Summer)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Arp, the alias for American producer Alexis Georgopoulos, made a very positive impression with his 2018 album ZEBRA, the first in a projected trilogy for the Mexican Summer label. Where that record stepped into a lush landscape, its sequel makes its way to the heart of the city. The press release talks in florid terms of “the flinty glow of commerce, the sleek rhythms of industrialization, and the cool finesse of brutalism”, all leaving their imprint.

Once again Arp uses analogue synthesizers as his mode of expression, with the list of instruments including a whole squad of keyboards from Fairlights to Moogs, 707s to 909s. In spite of the number of instruments used, the objective for Arp is to make incisive music that on occasion moves to the experimental.

What’s the music like?

Extremely enjoyable, and full of human emotion in spite of its wholly electronic origins. Although set in the city some of these textures are still wide open, conveying a giddy excitement at their surroundings. There are some wonderfully rich colours from the analogue equipment, which Arp uses to the extent of its descriptive powers.

The busy activity of the city can be glimpsed on Sponge (for Miyake) with figures flitting across the stereo picture, or in the rolling drums and melodic nuggets of New Pleasures itself. The swirly goings-on of i: /o are complemented by a bendy bass bringing reminders of Paul Young, while Le Palace has some lovely chunky handicaps and airy lines that also reek of the 1980s…in a good way!

Traitor (Dub) has a good disco vibe from that era, as does Embassy Disco, which elegantly refers towards Kraftwerk but with some attractive contributions from the marimba. Cloud Storage proves to be a weird and wonderful ending of some woozy keyboard thoughts.

The mood running through the album is consistently positive and amiable, but never coasting – quite the opposite, as Arp packs his music with bite-sized riffs, rich bass sounds and subtle percussion. Often the mood leans towards the Balearic, suggesting a hot city, which is also implied by the nocturnal mood of many of the instrumentals.

Does it all work?

Yes, pretty much, and not least because New Pleasures reveals more melodic layers with each listen, showing an intricately constructed patchwork of complementary riffs and moods.

Is it recommended?

Yes – a fine complement to ZEBRA. The sequel, and the conclusion of the trilogy, is already eagerly awaited.