Arcades: irresistible existential bubblegum

Music critic William Dart likes the Arcades – thanks William!

“Arcades is the name by which composers Dugal McKinnon and David Prior identify their partnership. Rattle’s press release spins words about the pair’s subverted pop sensibility sitting perfectly with the label’s penchant for music that follows its own compass. ‘Who’s Most Lost’ is a set of 13 rather tricky pop songs that delight in toying and sometimes mashing our expectations. They’re elliptical pieces, and if we were thinking a paper score, there’d be a lot of white in between the black. Both McKinnon and Prior are known for their weighter works. Prior can boast prizes at theillustrious Bourges Festival – but in ‘You Were Born Into This’ they have furnished me with a gorgeous summertime hit that I suspect will be on high rotate over the next few months. Alt.pop perhaps or maybe existential bubblegum, its wafting scales, modish sonic gristle and cute boyish vocals are irresistible.”

William Dart, The Critic’s Chair, Radio New Zealand Concert, Dec 2011

Weirding the voice

A second show on the voice for Upbeat, this one looking at technological transformations of the voice in music that sits happily in the shade of popular music.

John Oswald (1988). “Pretender”. Plunderphonics [EP]. RPM facilitates gender-bending (as do reel-to-reel tape machines, samplers, etc etc): “Over the course of this song Dolly Parton gets an aural sex change. Check out the last verse in which she gets to sing a duet with himself. Meanwhile, the arrangement goes from infinitely fast to infinitely slow. (John Oswald).

Goldfrapp (2000). “Deer Stop”. Felt Mountain [CD]. Alison Goldfrapp’s vocal transformed via Will Gregory’s electronics, rendering the whispery noir delivery all the more potent, as if Gregory’s production tools are microscopes for revealing the sonic qualia of emotion…

Burial (2007). “Archangel”. Untrue [CD]. Burial (Willian Bevan) samples Ray J’s song “One Wish” (2005) – which apparently charted here in NZ –, and uses pitch-shifting and time-stretching to map the vocal to a new melody, a side effect of which is that the voice is androgenized. No more a song of boy meets/loves/loses girl, instead we hear a shape-shifting jilted lover, singing the universal song of being lost in and through love.

Mouse on Mars (2001). “Actionist Respoke”. Idiology [CD]. Voice becomes an electronic instrument, a bionic rhythm machine, thanks to the vocalist’s supper of a sampler and turntable… This track works nicely in tandem with Kodwo Eshun’s book More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (London: Quartet Books, 1998). Eshun’s afrofuturism might just admit two white guys from Germany (Kraftwerk helped Afrika Bambaataa on his way, so why not?)

The Arcades – Who’s Most Lost?

The Arcades (after Walter Benjamin’s work), a long slow collaboration between myself and David Prior, will release its first album – Who’s Most Lost? – later this year on Rattle Records. This is very very nice news, not least of all because we’ve worked on it for so long. The cover art may well feature this image, the haze and ambiguity of which gives some loose sense of the concerns of the album.