“Arc Lab is the project of Canadian artist Medard Fischer (who has also been recording under his own name, check f.i. Four Songs for the City of New York). Fischer has also been working in the duo Down Review. However, Anthem sees Fischer return to his Arc Lab sound laboratory, as it’s been eight years since the last Arc Lab full-length album, 2008’s The Goodbye Radio (for the n5MD label). The Goodbye Radio was described as ‘genre-defying’ or ‘genre-transcending’ (by Textura Magazine, Canada) and as ‘one of the most original releases in the IDM field in some time’ and ‘downright ingenious’ ([sic] Magazine, Belgium). So, zip your Launch Entry Suit, put your helmet on, buckle up, and get ready for countdown, ignition and launch.
Arc Lab’s new album, the fourth in the Arc Lab discography, has been tagged ‘a retrofuturistic sci-fi travelogue’ by the Hidden Shoal label. Throughout the almost hour-long Anthem, the Arc Lab multistage rocket presents us for its 13 tracks deep into the electro-ambient outer fields. This is minimalist electronic dance music with brains and substance, given us through a string of chapters: “The Golden Record”; “W V V S”; “Through the Burning Glass”; “New Frontiers”; “Boundary”; Aurora Signals”; “Tidal”; Necessary Concepts”; “See You There”; “Broadcast 1,679”; “M-Set”; “The Refracting Glass”; “All These Worlds Are Yours”. It sounds like an epic journey, right? Fischer lists a long line of artists as his influences, such as Steve Reich, Henryk Górecki, Boards of Canada, Autechre, Underworld, Plaid, The Notwist, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, DJ Koze [who recently played Oslo’s ØYA festival] to name but a few. According to Hidden Shoal, Arc Lab ‘effectively blends IDM’s technical sophistication with the moving and poignant character of neo-classical ambience and a finely tuned ear for electroacoustic pop.’ This depicts the sound of Anthem quite good. Arc Lab’s contemporary ambient tracks flows and circles nice and sweet, making little dance moves within their discreet poppiness. To quote the label once more, Anthem holds ‘classic analogue timbres and detuned FM ambience over fragmented radio broadcasts, forgotten NASA program materials and layers of deep space noise’, and the album is in turns ‘menacing and contemplative, forbidding and epic, [and the album] shifts between claustrophobic tension and widescreen, cinematic expanse.’ In short: ‘Anthem is the grandeur of classic space opera, refracting darkly through a contemporary lens.’ An artist’s/band’s record label is of course highly subjective and indeed positive when describing, selling their product, but in Anthem‘s case i just nod and agree. This is a way cool, beautiful and enchanting record. From the opening “The Golden Record” all the way through to the closing “All These Worlds Are Yours”.
Fischer’s Lab presents pieces and fragments puzzled together throughout complex structures and patterns, ending as something substantial and solid. Solid as gold. Sometimes it is meaningless to try to mark out highlights (even though “W V V S” and “Through the Burning Glass” make a fine stretch together, while “Boundary” and “Tidal” are a couple of others standing out). This is such a case. Anthem is a 13-track-travel to listen through from start to finish. Some tracks are longer, some tracks are shorter. Together they make a totality, a whole. Anthem feels tense, relaxed, groovy, laidback, engaging, challenging and chilling at the same time. Like Hidden Shoal states: ‘The result is essential Arc Lab – evocative and compelling pieces rich with meaning and purpose.’ I second that.”