ARTHUR LOVES PLASTIC – Beneath The Watchful Eyes
Some one should examine the physics behind this latest CD from the incredible talent that is Bev Stanton, because somehow, across 15 tracks with an average running time of three minutes apiece, she’s managed to fit more into every track than you’d swear should be possible. Not only that, but, even though he album is full of layers and rich in variation, it has a cohesion that keeps you absolutely rivetted to it, from start to finish.
The album opens with a sea of flowing synthesizer music as the waves wash upon the shore and the eerily spooky ghosts of electronics past, float by and gather in their ranks as the music swells, a distant rumbling thunders delicately underneath and the whole thing shimmers and booms with gorgeous sonic sculpting pouring slowly out of every orifice, an almost symphonic sounding intro with touches of percussive darkness inhabiting its realms, a brief spoken section heralding its entry onto cosmic space as it fades.
Right away, amid a clatter of electronic drums and angst-ridden female voices, the mood changes completely and layer upon layer emerge, starting with a thunderous programmed rhythm over which more layers of space synths and electronic swoops reign down, ethereal female vocal soaring on top, distant operatic female vocal in the background but then the female ranting madness crashes in and burns as the rhythms thud, the electronic backdrops spread from horizon to horizon and the whole panorama of sound fills the room. Barely without a pause, we move into a cascade of electronic rhythm and chugging electro-percussive beats as the high-flying singing of Lisa Moscatiello delivers a song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an early Orb album, while the electronic swoops and organ-like stabs conjure a mix of Seal’s “Crazy” and some cosmic Hawkwind-like spacescape, the mix of all that with a beefy set of electronic-percussive dance rhythms, creating this massive slice of solid structural density that is both hard and cosmic at the same time, and just a joy to hear.
This time, definitely without a pause we dive headlong into “We Will Remember” as this rock-solid boinging electro-percussive rhythm allied to chugging electronic drums provide the undercurrent on top of which synths soar, vocal samples intone their announcements in menacing sense, as this huge galaxy of synthesizers and harmony vocals rises up and is joined by even more electronics and symphonic sounding shimmers.
The intensity climbs down a notch for the start of “Hollow” as a bouncy electro-percussive beat reveals a haunting electronic phrasing with distant vocal on top until the lead vocal emerges and the sound is just like that of my wonderful friend and Edinburgh-based vocalist extraordinaire, Electra, only here it’s Lisa Mocatiello once again. The song is quite chilled out in the main, more hypnotic despite the rhythmic content, and, if you had to make some sort of comparison, you’d be talking a mix of early Orb, “Moon Safrai”-era Air and Electra’s yet-to-be-released album.
The flavour of the previous tracks continues in “Empty Philharmonic” as the Electra-like jazzily-operatic and gorgeously soulful vocals combine with the cascading electronics, the string synths flow and brief snippets of voice, all to absolutely mesmerising effect. “The Grind”, although just under two minutes long, mixes full-sounding electronic cascades with slightly decelerated drum ‘n’ bass rhythms, multi-tracked female vocals and a cyclical feel that is totally addictive.
“If You Could See Me Now” is a straight song set to a clattering electro-percussive foundation over which Lisa’s full-sounding vocal is positively silky and sensuous as the deep bass rumbles in the distance, rippling waves of solid keys and synths provide orchestral-likes splendours as far as the ear can reach, while the overall effect of the multi-layered soundscapes, rhythms and vocals is nothing short of incredibly emotive.
The solid and yet airy song that is “Afterglow” follows in a similar vein, only this time Lisa’s vocals take on a distinctly early Air-like quality as the whole canvas of sound is painted and sculpted, the vocal flowing delicately above rumbling electronic bass, soothing electronic percussive rhythms providing the undercurrents.
Above all this, a universe of soundscapes from synths and vocals and guitar loops create a most magical and magnificent musical heaven. “I’ll Be There’ is probably the most commercial song on the album, still with its riches intact but more straight ahead with solid infectious rhythms, a chorus that floats around your brain and refuses to let go, an expanse of electronic bliss that fills every part of the air around you, as the whole thing intensifies into this massive sounding and utterly mesmerising tower of strength, while at the same time being a thing of great beauty, too.
With its even beefier yet slower electronic and bass rhythms leading the way, “Despair” takes us back to a mix of solid and haunting with Lisa’s vocals slightly processed and sounding like some smoky jazz ambience, as the synth swirls and flies to awesome effect.
“Women Alone” is powerful and mesmerising at the same time with a solid yet haunting flavour to its mix of beefy and expansive, while “Let’s Do It” clatters along percussively as a mix of phased electronics, and shimmering electronics create this magnificent electro-percussive core, while the vocal core consists of narrated hardcore, as this woman intones that she wants to do things to make you positively orgasmic – and the best part is, that it works. If you’re not as horny as a toad after this three minutes of track, then your [privates] need a good seeing to.
From orgasmic we go to post-climactic heaven as this huge sounding mass of rhythms and bass and synths and more bass and more percussive beats provide the foundations for some fantastic female vocal sampling and the whole room shakes. The album ends on an equally earthquaking set of rhythms and electronics as the instrumental textures, beats and soundscapes, boom and flow, more razor-sharp and pinpoint accurate vocal samples providing the icing on a sumptuous musical cake as the rhythms march above oceans of electronics to a huge-sounding and spookily cosmic finale, the end being so suitably fitting as it fades into the distance – leaving you wanting nothing more than to hear the whole thing once again.
To say this is her best yet is an understatement in a career of CD releases where every time she puts something out, it’s her best yet, so when you consider that she started at a peak, by my reckoning, this puts her musical IQ somewhere around mega-genius level. An album to listen to long, loud and often, to experience and dive into and to treasure, lovingly and purposefully – and if you’re in the right mood, you can fuck to it too!
-- Andy Garibaldi (Dead Earnest)