Arvo Party – Love Above All: Album Review

Award nominated artist, producer and musician, Arvo Party, releases his third album.

Release Date: 6th March 2020

Label: Self Released

Formats: Digital

Arvo Party’s Love Above All is full of chopped rhythms, off-kilter beats and stripped-back IDM breaks which come together in driving euphoric crescendos to create an insatiable thirst, though soon forgotten in the distorted and deeply contemplative second half. Much of the album has the feeling of being incidental; a chance coming together of disparate slices, but a close listen reveals much about the creator’s process and creates a sense of awe at the simple joy derived from such layered complexity. Testament to the sharp production and mastering Love Above All is an unashamed and brash glitch-fuelled piece charting a descent into near-ambience, whilst being delicate and detailed enough throughout to give great satisfaction to the astute listener.

As harsher rhythmic elements fade towards the close of the record, drawn consuming ambiences envelope and show a much darker side than the thoughtful stripped-back breaks which feature earlier on. Ambience is embraced both as a component of building anticipation and as a consuming force providing a dynamic contrast on a macro scale, creating the space for gradual progression and swells. In much the same way, in-piece breakdowns are used to great dynamic effect; proudly parading glitched elements which bring whole pieces together in elated, heady cadences.

Tennyson, the first single to be taken from the album, opens with a clean and ethereal drone creating suspense and a sense of expectation. As fluttering pipes and the glitz of neon-drenched synth bounce around, subtle vocal references and other sounds hint at what’s to come; an introduction giving every sense of genesis.

As the drone fades, a bass diad establishes tempo and a restrained rhythm and melody with train-like persistence pull us into a world of handclaps, chopped chords, hypnotic kicks and warped vocals. As the piece develops so do micro-rhythmic structures which, with an expanding chromatic range, fill every inch of silence with infectiously positive and energetic rounds.

Exvoto rides the high left by Tennyson, with an altogether calmer and more nuanced build. Arpeggiated synth brass is striking when it first enters, juxtaposed against driving, shimmering rhythmic sounds. Yet, with the addition of further contrasting delicate counterpart, the piece builds to an explosion of synthesised brass arpeggios which expertly tie in and give a gratifying completeness to the piece.

Melodie is the second single to be taken from the album and with rattling harpsichord driven jazz breaks introduces fresh tonal and stylistic elements, with coherence to the form drawn from the use of chopped, punchy synths as the rhythmic device so characteristic of this album’s first half. The feeling of restraint is ever present here, with shallower texture providing a more sympathetic treatment to the instrumentation and preparing the listener for more textural works to come.

Other Ghosts continues the form and progression to a more distorted, sparse ambient vista with the introduction of delayed guitar picking. This new timbre is built layer on layer to a dense, yet not overwhelming, textural form. As picking is panned to fill the space, simple pentatonic piano steps gradually emerge to establish a more sombre mood and lead the way for a sweetly satisfying and crisp sitar-like manipulated guitar melody.

The elemental feel and removal of percussion from the fore creates the sense in the shift from the bombastic first to the subtle second half of Love Above All, cemented by OV, where a simple distant piano wanders desolately as nuanced percussive clicks and hisses are accompanied by resonant taps to great atmospheric effect. Tonal chords introduce a renewed warmth and grounding to the record which is furthered by the use of unprocessed field recording.

Unfrequented closes the album; a beatless work of prevalent dark ambient styling, yet comparatively brief in duration and giving more than a subtle nod to vapourwave through the feature of crushed and distorted warped tones. Coupled with a bass loop as the only rhythmic points, vague hints are given at the musicality and light-heartedness of what went before.

Arvo Party’s latest is the journey promised at its opening and so much more, charting a clear descent from quirky euphoria into a dark consuming ambience. Where earlier works include hints at later events, the latter parts of the album include distorted memories as reference points to earlier sounds and nicely knit the record together. This is a real showcase without the sense of being over self-indulgent, with real care given to create a whole and fulfilling listening experience to be enjoyed by the many.

Here’s the official video for Tennyson:

Arvo Party: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

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