“Medard Fischer’s third Arc Lab album ranges so widely, it invites descriptors such as “genre-defying” or, perhaps most appropriately, “genre-transcending.” Some common threads do run throughout, however, one in particular being the material’s oft-classical feel. And if the tracks do feel somewhat classical in spirit, they should as Fischer based their structures on the sonnet form. In many pieces, multiple vocal and instrumental melodies interlock in intricate and graceful counterpoint, and often the compositions feel reminiscent of gamelan and Asian music in their clockwork rhythms and overall delicacy. Though piano is the nucleus, the arrangements are rich in evocation, something that also doesn’t surprise given that Fischer works field recordings, radio noise, male and female vocals, and bits and pieces of ancient recordings into the material’s fabric.
There’s much high-caliber music-making on display, with its emotive electronic character representative of n5MD in general. Following an overture of electroacoustic haze (“Transients”), the album proper ensues with the melancholic piano-based ballad “The Secret Lives of A.C. Wuornos” (yes, the serial killer) whose haunting effect is undercut slightly by the robotic filtering of the vocal (“I am the movie with no sound / I am the girl you dream about”). Other highlights include “Reflexives,” an impressive two-part composition that begins as a classical sounding piano-and-strings setting before turning pensive in part two and gradually evolving into a gamelan-flavoured setting for mallet instruments, and “Departure Music Part One,” featuring an arresting mix of harp, glockenspiel, acoustic bass, and even castanets. Memorable vocal pieces appear too, specifically the elegant ballad “Small Numbers” and “I Wish I Could Tell You,” whose melancholic electro-pop style brings Styrofoam to mind.
Might this be Fischer’s adieu, as the album title suggests? Stay tuned…”