Arandel: Solarispellis

Being resolutely anonymous, the secretive Arandel is as enigmatic a project as the outfit's sophomore full-length Solarispellis. In quest of an authentic and organic sound, Arandel produced the electronic album in the purest manner possible: no samples, MIDI, or digital quantizing were involved in its creation, and everything on the album is the product of live analogue synthesizer recordings. Recorded in the living room of a small apartment, Solarispellis picks up where 2010's debut album In D left off in Arandel's refusal to correct whatever natural imperfections appeared over the course of the album's creation, even though digital production methodologies allow for every so-called error to be fixed.

Guiding principles aside, the album material is more striking for the journey it undertakes during its forty-six minutes and for the wide stylistic range it covers along the way. A scan of the titles suggests the concept album-like structure of the work, with Solarispellis making its way through an intro and numerous sections and interludes before closing with a finale, and the material's analog synth-heavy sound and formal structure lend Solarispellis the character of a ‘70s prog-styled album. It's also interesting that on sonic grounds it achieves a near symphonic splendour that seems in marked contrast to the humble setting within which it was produced.

Moods and styles change from track to track, with the ponderous tone of one alleviated by the carefree spirit of the next. By way of illustration, the melancholy reverie “Section 7” entrances the listener with a dream-like scene-painting awash in synthesizer textures and lulling rhythms, whereas “Section 11” opts for jubilation in the ecstatic flurry of its 8-bit melodies and rock drumming. Elsewhere, the metronomic patterns of “Section 13” evoke the early explorations of minimalist composers like Riley and Glass, while “Section 12” morphs from a house-inflected club cut into a dramatic, encompassing synthesizer epic.

The range of sounds Arandel coaxes from the analog gear is itself impressive, with the synthesizers convincingly passing for church organ within the funereal “Section 9” and harpsichords during the stately classical setting “Section 10 (1st & 2nd Movements).” Solarispellis ultimately ends up registering as a consistently stimulating ride that never feels handicapped by the production-related restrictions Arandel imposed on its creation.

January 2015