Z-Arc – Rematerialise
Z-Arc’s latest offering, ‘Rematerialise’, takes me away from my usual comfort zone of typical ambient and drone-based listening habits, and shoots me into the artist’s retrofuturistic approach to electronica. “It’s okay, I can do this”, I tell myself, knowing fine well the only semi-relatable music that comes to mind is that of Halftribe (Ryan Bissett) and the soundtracks to the TRON movies (both the original and Legacy, of course!). I tend to avoid drawing too many comparisons in my writings on music anyway; it distracts from the task at hand. Z-Arc is the performance alias of London-based Kris Derry. Let us dive in.
‘Rematerialise’ is brought to us by Phil Edward’s Assembly Field label, following recent releases by Tone Colour, Loeco, and Anthéne. However, Z-Arc differs from those mentioned, delivering a flashback of sorts in the way of hazy, spacious electronica that gives a nod to the history of electronic music without sounding dated. The opening two track, ‘Hologram Dream Recorder’ and ‘Solar Neon’, for example, make excellent use of arpeggiators spread wide across the stereo field, further enhanced by headphone listening (which is thoroughly recommended for this album). Buzzing bass lines, echoing keys, and unobtrusive beats fill out the tracks nicely.
‘Inverse Harmonics’ brings a slowly, more emotive feel as the album progresses, with choir-like pads and vast filtered sweeps providing depth. There’s also a sense of foreboding achieved as the artist avoids the expected in the way of chord progressions and arrangement. Grittier textures are crafted through the calculated and sparing use of bit-crushed elements; an example of the London-based artist’s well-planned arrangements. The cinematic nature of the album cannot go ignored, as each track presents a journey in some far off, pixelated land.
The second half of the album continues in its quality, evading any sense of tedium that is often encountered in any unapologetic flashback genres. The album’s final track, ‘The Reality Fractal’, captures everything I’ve always enjoyed about the electronica soundtracks remembered from childhood: dreamy, flowing chord progressions rooted in place by a loosely driving bass line; percussive parts that aim to support rather than direct, and a sense of endless space that is so suited for the genre.
Z-Arc – ‘Rematerialise’ is out now on Assembly Field, available on CD or as a digital download, with thematic artwork created by the artist himself (not to mention, a gloss sticker and coaster are included too!).