ALBUM REVIEW: Aārp – ‘Propaganda’

MAKE no mistake, the debut album from classically trained experimentalist Aārp has serious conceptual intent.

Entitled Propaganda, and out now on Paris-Lyon-Berlin imprint InFiné, it is pointedly political. The title is predicated on the media portrayal of death of Steve Canico, the French techno fan found drowned after an altercation with police at a festival in Nantes; and how a certain slant on him did the rounds before a more moderate story appeared.

And each track on the 11-track set (12 on vinyl) is titled by a propagandist phrase from recent times: from the “An Axis of Evil” of George W Bush, to the deception of the Oxycontin line, “Less than 1% of patients become addicted”, which leads off the album; to Thatcher’s infamous ideological pronouncement, “There is no alternative” (to economic liberalism).

As a musician, Aārp charted a route from orchestra violinist through a fascination with Warp and Ninja Tune scions such as Squarepusher and Amon Tobin; and thus, a move towards electronic production. 

This record is an intriguingly varied set. The synth textures have an overwhelming 70s into 80s feel. There’s something of the tonality of John Carpenter, but melodically this album has a distinctly European feel. Textures shift and are gone just are you settling to a cognisance of style.

Percussion chatters and breaks arhythmically. It’s massively filmic in its adaptation of the propagandic conceit.

Opener “Ca Fuit de Partout” develops from a haunting chimes into a broad and cinematic sweep: if there was another series along the lines of Deutschland 83, this would be a shoo-in for a theme. You can see the isolated pavement sapling and grand postwar brutalism sliding the past the window. 

“Condamnez-Vous Les Violences?” is built on a Philip Glass-like insistent and quick arpeggio, with pianos interjecting and a very British break dropping and pausing; “The Axis of Evil” is an early rave classic as reimagined by the mind of a composer, seeking the vision in the electronics. “Less than 1% of patients become addicted” is a plaintive and reflective keys-based layer of melody. 

The Thatcherite maxim, “There is no Alternative” again has that early techno bounce and an almost Italian house bass riff, whereas in the stave above it’s coming on GhostBox dystopian. Which is fitting. And the brief 91 seconds of “Nada Es Gratis En Esta Vida” is a very Autechre shear and yaw into industrial; not Trent Reznor of course, more an East German power station in the snow. 

“The Herbicide That Gets To The Root of the Problem”, a reference to the chemical brazenness of Monsanto, is the track where you can most reference the unsteady propulsive genius of Tom Jenkinson. Guttural sweeps and “Vic Acid” cut-up vie with more European classical moments.

Aārp’s debut is an ambitious plaiting of two main traditions: a very British leftfield techno/IDM breaks aesthetic, and a none-more-European cinemascape.

You could sit comfortably on an autobahn in the Ruhr valley, or maybe the outer chemical hinterlands of the A13 at dusk, and this would dovetail nicely. 

Aārp’s Propaganda is out now on InFiné and can be ordered here.

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