Album Review: Arpo by Call Super

Joe Seaton returns as Call Super with his second LP Arpo, a stunningly mature album that seamlessly combines hypnotic, exquisitely tactile bass tones with evanescent ruptures of haunting and shrieking woodwind instrumentals.

In keeping with his experimental reputation, Arpo fluctuates between imaginative IDM, flirtations with jazz and distinctive tech-house rhythms. What is striking about this album is Seaton’s remarkable ability to capture nebulous sounds which he continually fuses into a rich narrative, only to pull them apart again. In doing so, Seaton denies us the comfort of predictability, whilst illuminating a mesmeric, ethereal and, at times, unsettling audible experience. Yet it is the intimacy embedded in each track that sweeps us through Seaton’s imagined journey and which evokes both the melancholic yawns and nostalgic smiles of party-goers as they emerge after hours of delirium and dancing into the soft, peaceful light of the morning.

The Berlin-based producer’s album follows on from his first LP Suzi Ecto, released three years ago. An ambient, almost spiritual album that catapulted him to great acclaim and admiration, not simply for its meticulous composition and innovative take on IDM and techno tropes, but by carving out a unique space where genres bleed into each other. It is this liminality that has become quintessential of Seaton’s creations. In the three years since, he has gone from strength to strength, releasing accomplished singles via labels Dekmantel and The Trilogy Tapes, as well as venturing into the fabric 92 mix with an eclectic, polished CD. And, most recently, his collaboration with Beatrice Dillon to produce the refined and elegant Injekt/Fluo 12” on the visionary label, Hessle Audio. Yet, Arpo bears further witness to Seaton’s evolution as a producer, commingling iridescent, airy melodies with darker, foreboding hisses and clangs, culminating in a sound that it both eerie and deeply comforting.

The album begins with the eponymous track “Arpo”. In only a brief fifty-nine seconds, Seaton constructs a hazy dream world, as a woodwind harmony seeps over twinkling electronic chimes, all layered over a hiss that seems to mirror the running of a stream. The ghostly sounds of the clarinet and oboe draw on the influence of Seaton’s father, artist and Dixieland clarinetist, John Seaton. The use of classical woodwind sounds prove a particularly deft addition to the electronic soundscape, offering Seaton versatility throughout the album, from low wistful drones to bold and playful shrills.

“Arpo” transitions seamlessly into “Korals”. Seaton introduces a babbling synth and dub-like splutters, clicks and clangs, which snarl against each other: here a sense of disorientation is palpable. The track hints at the conflicting semblance of order and underlying chaos apparent throughout the album, which is even represented on Seaton’s original cover art, where thick, red brush stokes form bold, ordered lines contrasted by impassioned marks of movement. The following track, “OK Werkmeister”, signals an atmospheric shift: dark, disquieting beats hurtle past, evoking the instability of twilight, just before the dawn.

“In only a brief fifty-nine seconds, Seaton constructs a hazy dream world, as a woodwind harmony seeps over twinkling electronic chimes, all layered over a hiss that seems to mirror the running of a stream.”

Speaking to Red Bull Music Academy earlier this year, Seaton revealed that his fabric 92 mix was “taking aim at the morning… you’ve got the scope to have some fun and maybe take some risks, and also play very hypnotically and dreamily”. It is the dawn that links Seaton’s narrative in Arpo, conjuring the ‘end of the night’ experience; groggy-eyed and exhausted, the incessant bass replaced by the mellifluent morning-chorus. The lights, sounds and ecstasy fade into memory and as you walk the sun begins to rise behind you. In spite of the weariness, Seaton states this is an “uplifting” time. This is illuminated in “Music Stand”, as sweet synth chimes pour over each other, delightfully accompanied by intermittent bird-song.

As “Music Stand” abruptly ends, Seaton submerges us in “Any Pill”. The slightly off-set distant sounds combined with the soft, ambient swishing, trickling and dripping transport you to an underwater world, where tranquil, subdued melodies swirl feely. It is in longer tracks, like the profoundly titled “I Look Like I Look in a Tinfoil Mirror”, where tech-house rhythms permeate the morning serenity, and bird song is replaced by monotonous digital bleeps. The final track, “Out To Rust”, ostensibly offers a sense of closure to the album, binding together woodwind harmonies, metallic bubbling, soft hisses and tech rhythms.

Arpo is a testament to Seaton’s idiosyncratic style. He presents a complex, experimental soundscape, in which every small detail is calculated and meticulously deliberate. Yet the true brilliance of this album lies in its ability to tell a story. It gestures towards your lived experience and captures the emotions that accompany it. Jeff Mills said that “techno wasn't designed to be dance music, it was designed to be a futurist statement”. Well, this might just be it.


MusicGeorge SteijgerComment