Ambisonic - "ARP"
(self-released 2011)

From Aural Innovations #43 (October 2011)

The innovative Canadian duo Ambisonic returns for their second outing. Simply titled ARP, it's a mind-blowing synthesis of space rock and prog rock with ambient music and electronica. Creating a system to play multiple instruments combined with real time looping, live acoustic drums, synths, guitar and other instruments, the duo sounds more like a full-fledged rock band than just two guys. But when you have two guys as talented as Erik Culp and Paul Barry, the unbelievable can be made a reality.

After a short intro of deep space analogue synth punctuated with a scream, they launch into the devastating space rock of Invasion. Erik's cosmic synths pulse and sweep along to Paul's intense drumming before the guitar comes in and takes the piece to new dimensions. It follows in like with Frontiers, the maniacal Reactor and the powerful Polson. The sound is tight and focused, achieving a perfect balance and synergy between the electronics, the percussion and the guitar. There's a true sense of drama as each song builds to intense climaxes.

Things take a different turn after the brief interlude of, well, Interlude, which leads into Rebecca, presumably named after Lake Rebecca, on the shores of which this album was recorded in a small rustic cottage (belying its epic sounds!). This one's a beautiful, hallucinogenic celebration of electronica and trip hop, but with real drums, guitar and banjo (capturing a bit of that rustic feel?) to go along with all the psychedelic electronics that throb, wash and swirl. The dark and moody The Right Defence has a very cinematic quality to it before we return to more electronica fuelled sounds with Wenona. Heston (presumably referring to actor Charlton Heston, with a not so subtle hint of "Soylent Green is made from people!" at the beginning) has a dark, paranoid dystopian feel to it, adding yet another layer of emotive sonics to the mix. Two shorter pieces, Landed (which explores the space rock idiom further) and We Cannot See the Sun (which delves into more intense electronica stylings) bring us to the final, epic 12-minute title track. Smooth, ambient synth textures swirl around pensive guitar patterns, slowly building into heroic guitar rock. There's even a touch of Erik's old Atomic Cosmonaut twang in the mix as the track marches slowly towards its grand conclusion, and the end of the album.

Oh, and if all that's not enough for you, the CD comes in a cool, unique wood-like envelope! Echoes of that cottage on Lake Rebecca. Tough, original, highly listenable space rock and complex trip hop explorations make ARP one of the best releases of the year. Highly recommended!

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Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald

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