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Arkley, Ian: Two

If the name Ian Arkley doesn’t sound familiar, please take some time to learn more about his musical career. He is probably best known for his work (starting in the late 1980s) with the thrash band Seventh Angel, but he has also spent nearly twenty years with the more doom- inspired My Silent Wake, a band I greatly admire. For those wanting to look a little outside of the box, you might check out his band Ashen Mortality or maybe even Paramaecium, a band Arkley played with for a little while.

In 2020, Arkley released his first solo album. Recorded at his home studio, Arfryn, One highlighted Arkley’s interest in exploring new possibilities. The album was entirely written, performed, and and recorded by Arkley. It features a variety of instruments, including the harmonium and the didgeridoo, and does a great job establishing a dark and moody ambience that it both haunting and inviting. This album clearly owes more to the wild and unpredictable Welsh countryside than it does to the thrash and doom metal, but that makes it perhaps even more interesting.

On Two, the album I’m primarily focusing on here, Arkley continues down a similar path, only that path is often brighter and more hopeful than it is on One. Once again, Arkley wrote, performed, and recorded everything on this album. For those wanting a little more information about that process, check out his Bandcamp page for this album. I was interested to note that everything was recorded acoustically; it seems obvious to me that this album was recorded with the hope that listeners will catch as much of the musical elements as possible. I also recommend listening with headphones. This album has a richness that rewards multiple listens. Not only is the music well-written, but the sound quality allows listeners to discover its multiple layers quickly. Two is mostly an instrumental album that draws on a variety of genres, including ambience, minimalism, folk music, and experimental music. Although every song has a distinctive melody or rhythm, there are times when things almost approach the level of experimental noise, if only to discover where else the music could go. It would be easy to describe this album as wide ranging or exploratory, but I tend to think of it as a type of “gathering.” What I mean is that it brings together a sense of nostalgia, mystery, and incantation. It grabs one’s attention and then invites that attention to wander, if only to see what else it can think about.

The album appears to be framed around “Raven Valley” a title that appears three times on this release, though each track offers a different variation on the theme. These variations are named after the fundamental concepts of “Birth,” “Death,” and “Sleep.” The first two variations (“Birth” and “Death”) are relatively short, just shy of three minutes each, but the final one is just over twenty minutes. That additional length gives the song more room to explore new possibilities, including a section that sounds, at least to me, like a minimalist-inspired set of regular repetition that leads to very gradual change. Minimalism has many practitioners, but I thought here of Philip Glass or Steve Reich. For those wanting a quick tour of this album’s various moods, listen to all three variants of “Raven Valley” and see what you think.

For those wanting more, and I hope you do, please check out “Rhyddid.” I’ve listened to that song multiple times over the last week (including while I write this) and I plan to return to it often. It opens with a strong, almost menacing, undercurrent and then introduces a bright-sounding melody that balances everything out. Not being familiar with the term “Rhyddid,” I looked it up and discovered that it has something to do with freedom or liberty. The music suits that meaning, especially if it’s approached as a mature meditation on freedom. This isn’t “Fight for Your Right to Party,” after all. If you like “Rhyddid,” just go on to “Chrysalis,” another bright-but-mysterious piece that works beautifully from start to finish. It comes in at nearly ten minutes, but it never drags or feels padded.

I won’t comment on every track, but I will say this album has captured my attention. I highly recommend “Rhyddid” and “Chrysalis” and the three variations of “Raven Valley.” If you like those, you won’t want to miss tracks like “The Imprint of Time” or “Der Fund” or “From Forest From Sea.”

I hope you’ll enjoy this album as much as I did. I suggest listening to it on a walk outside or when you need a few moments to yourself.

Track Listing:
1. Raven Valley (variation 1: Birth)
2. The Imprint in Time
3. Outage
4. Der Fund
5. Times of Innocence
6. Raven Valley (variation 2: Death)
7. Rhyddid
8. Chrysalis
9. When Once
10. From Forest From Sea
11. King
12. Raven Valley (variation 3: Sleep)

Added: September 14th 2022
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Score:
Related Link: Bandcamp Page
Hits: 165
Language: english

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