Monday 29 April 2013

Arch Woodmann - Arch Woodmann

Album review by

Gone is the time when France was seen as a musical backwater. Rather than falling into the dance ranks of Air or Daft Punk, Arch Woodmann are closer to that of Phoenix and have delivered an album that is full of life and colour. Admittedly it would be hard to hear a distinct french influence, but this is no slight upon this album. Opener 'Good God' is all brisk, crisp lines, handclaps, 'Lovecats' bubbling bass and twirls of crisp Marr-like guitar, the song is a bright introduction. Sweet horns lift the song into delicious sunny end. Second track is a shade darker, but not as if plunging into some gloomy goth, it still has a brightness to it. 'I Should Be Fine' is reminiscent of Foals at their lightest. Through the track, flourishes of strong, incandescent guitar ride along, and the song evolves into a rich vibrant track. It has many elements, but none of these ever overpower the song.

'Stupid'o'clock' opens nosier than anything previously, then edges into a quite eclectic track, all stop-starts and varying styles. At points it's almost 'Let's Dance'-era Bowie, then the song locks down a wonderfully fuzzy feel, and builds into a controlled cacophony with a  wild horn taking it to the close. Follower 'Turn Twenty Again' has a more electronic take. A track lead by rhythmic, dashes of bright beats, the song flows along into something quite special and ends too soon. Arch Woodmann show mastership of the song all over this album, and the tracks are rarely too long, and are oft sculpturally concise, but here the song may of benefited from a longer play, allowing you to enjoy it for that minute longer. 'Fangs' is the rawest thing here, and almost the ugly duckling in the brightness. A track lead along in a Pixies-style weird-fi bass fuzz. Stabbing synths and barreling drums, pound along and add a surprising depth to the track and album.

Sixth track 'That Summer' is a quite lovely song in stark contrast to 'Fangs'. A Sunday morning stroll, with a bittersweet under current, where the unexpected declaration of "I'm all fucked up" wakes the listener from the warmth. Similarly to 'Stupid'o'clock' Arch Woodman's deft song editing leaves you wanting for the track to be that minute longer again. 'Sea Precious Sea' is the album's first real disappointment. It has many lovely glimmers, but never quite gels, and ends up just too disjointed to work comfortably. It tries to close out with an Eels-like dark/light turn but doesn't get there fully. 'Parking Lot' fares better, but still it settles into a bitter feel, that has not been present earlier. If the album is an journey then these tracks are the post-break up bitterness. And where the songs revelled in being brisk, bright and concise, these two wallow and over stay their welcome.

After the wallowing, 'Dark Dark Clouds' rebuilds on Arch Woodmann's strengths. While not as bright as the album's first half, it is a strong, rich track that balances the grey of the two tracks preceding. 'What Did You See' is an album stand-out, showing glimpses of Daft Punk noise-control tied into an driving, urgent, spiraling piece that begs you to dance around with it. 'Employment' sees a step back into the bitterness, but this time it is a more controlled step. Here the vitriol is more eloquent, with a Jarvis Cocker-style prose of spitting out "you're an asshole" but never letting it fall into simple uncouthness. Similarly the song controls the spite until the end where it lurches into a loose, stumbling feel concluding in a wash of feedback and "asshole" being spat out. 'Coupe Gorge' is a lovely track with a strong Vampire Weekend feel, but as a closer it doesn't quite work after the loose beating of 'Employment'. It is the first time you clearly hear a French inflection, in the raw female lyrics. And it works, but perhaps it would of fitted better prior to 'Employment'. Arch Woodmen have delivered a rich, colourful album that rewards with many listens, and stands strongly alongside it's any of its peers.

Arch Woodmann's website

Stream or buy the album

Catch them live:

Saturday, May 25 - Space Icarus - Paris - 18.00
Saturday, May 25 - Space Icarus - Paris - 18h30
Friday, May 31 - EMB Espace Michel Berger - Paris - 20h30
Friday, June 7th - Lake Baron Desqueyroux - Montendre - 17.00
Saturday, June 8 - Lac Baron Desqueyroux - Montendre - 17.00
Saturday, June 22 - Park citadel of Bourg - Bordeaux - 2:57 p.m.

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