Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Arcadia "So Red The Rose" (1985)


"So Red The Rose" is a one off 80s Synthpop record, an off shoot of Duran Duran. With the band on a short hiatus the group split in two to focus on other projects and three of the five, including singer Simon LeBon, put together this record together which could arguably be my first Duran Duran record as I am quite unfamiliar with their music, however very aware of their success and acclaim. Synthpop itself isn't a genre I'm particularly fond of however Depeche Mode's "Black Celebration" really won me over. It has an appealing framework but often the direction isn't my forte.

With Arcadia the opposite might just be so. I found myself in tune with the spirit of the record and its direction however the arrangements of bright, crisp and upfront instruments tend to get on the excessive side at times. It is apparent now that the "space", between instruments, in the music is probably due to being so fond of Metal and a constant onslaught of sound that the burst and chop nature of the instruments becomes a delicate balance. Simple drum beats, mild temperate baselines, soft backdrop synth lines and LeBon's romanticized vocals are the consistent element. Around them dance jovial synth stabs, momentary flange guitars chords and various layers of mildly percussive sounds as well as swarms of noisy synth effects that burst out and frazzle quickly. These arrangements revolve around straight forward time signatures with a decent sense of groove but its a few instrumental choices that don't line up for me. Vivacious and bold, these instruments have to much oomph for what should be a calmer spirit in comparison to LeBon's voice. Especially the stabs, they border what might be described as "cheesy". Although a little wild and over enthusiastic the songs have spirit, inspiration and a great sense of melody within a shorter, catchy context.

At this point the record is doing just enough but after a couple of interludes the final three tracks really pick up with the aforementioned niggles removed entirely. They follow the tone of LeBon and build slower atmospheres around him with no dramatic synth noises or abrasive stabs, Its the part I'm most fond of. It wasn't something I noticed, but the record also features David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, Sting & Herbie Hancock on various tracks. I really enjoyed this record for a while but it has tired a little. Ive seen Synthpop as a hit or miss for me but here we find something hung in the balance, that definitely leans into the light.

Favorite Songs: The Promise, El Diablo, Lady Ice
Rating: 6/10

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