The debut full-length from Belfast ambient/electronica artist Herb Magee as Arvo Party is leaps and bounds ahead of some of the musician’s previous work under the moniker, as well as earlier forays into guitar-based music as bassist for alt-rock outfit LaFaro. Challenging convention and bucking current Northern Irish dancefloor orientated trends, Magee’s Arvo Party stretches compositions into lush soundscapes that capture mood quite unlike other domestic releases heard this year.
Notably, the album’s 11 tracks works in favour of this MO – arrangements wrap around shorter, interlude-like cuts that display both a proficiency for acute melodic overloads and an understanding of the composer/listener dynamic. One could surmise that had Magee offered a debut solely comprised of Moroder-esque eight-minute excursions into sound, there’d be little sense in paying attention to where the niche may well take him going forward.
As it stands, the first five songs of the eponymous album set the pacing in the most seamless of ways, ‘Pye’, to ‘LongitudeLatitude’, to ‘Zoso’, ‘Null Set’, and beyond, curtail any sense of sonic fatigue at the hands of the producer, instead allowing the listener to hone in on influences like Wolfgang Voigt, Nils Frahm, Tangerine Dream, or Jean-Michel Jarre. Bursting with atmospheric, neon-tinged strobing synthesizers (‘155 bpm’, ‘Grube’) and introspective pad work ‘Hydraulis Bellow’ – there’s a balance of epic and unostentatious; Arvo Party is at its core a cinematic affair.
Morphing and shifting with ease from sounds that wouldn’t be amiss on the Stranger Things soundtrack, to new-age sonic palettes, Arvo Party is Proustian in its scope and exceptionally beautiful in its execution. Though Magee traces a clear lineage to the experimental electronica of the 1970s, this debut is anything but derivative. It simply commands attention.