For many (myself included) Ark at one time just seemed to be an album that would never be made. I for one am just grateful to have Brendan back making music again. To say “Ark” is a master stroke of genius is possibly the greatest understatement as from start to finish it is utterly mesmorising.
“Babylon” opens to a fanfare of sythersized brass and strings before cracking out some heavy percussion and huge gong smashes as the calm and assured confidence of Brendan narrates over the top with prowess. The yang-qin is back as are various archaic reed instruments. For some, you may know the song from the 2005 Dead Can Dance tour as “Saffron” but to hear it in full studio glory in a new almost journeyman tempo, its a fantastic transformation and a great mood settler.
“The Bogus Man” opens to electronic pulses in a downtrodden lowfi trip hop world music fusion fest. It’s mixture of different electronic riffs and eerie choral overlays make for an unsettling backdrop as Brendan laments “politican, model citizen… blind ambition” to jangling bells. The sheer scope and different instruments and sounds used in just the two opening tracks alone is immense. This track also see’s Brendan’s lyrics at their most outspoken for me personally too and I found it very interesting to delve into what Perry has been thinking of the world’s state of being lately.
“Wintersun” is the most electronica based we’ve seen Perry to date and he works the wires perfectly with a wordly wisdom that his especially voice and the keyboards he meshes together creates. The mix of the old and new, the synthetic and the natural – is really key to Ark, its sound and the themes that run through it and as on all the track, here it’s perfectly pitched, especially with the percussion. This song is like an aural free fall and is utterly beautiful.
“Utopia” is the single from the album and is a swirling dramatic track full of harpsichord (automatic win for HPM!) and lots of dramatic string arrangements as Brendan slowly builds himself into a frenzy over the song. It’s such a well constructed song as it starts off quite cathartic with its massaging riffs and slowly gets more darker and foreboding as it progresses. It’s the only song that clocks in under six minutes on the album.
“Inferno” is a disquieting look at people who choose to live without social interaction. It starts off eeriely for the first half with twinkles washed over by harsh basslines until broken string arrangements and a down tempo beat are thrown into the mix. The last minute or so is my favourite section of the track as the end coda repeats to mystical rhythms.
“This Boy” starts off desolate, with a great little trick by delaying the echo on the drum stick slaps and so everything sounds very empty and dry. It’s a very lyrical track and the strings are particually moving, as its Brendan’s vocals as he can switches from outcries to creaking whimpers in a single breath. All the while keyboard choral pads gentley seranade you behind the bigger noise. This Boy is epic – as really is almost every track on the album. Nothing is done in small measures here!
“The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is possibly the most dance floor worthy track on the album, its also on the surface the most upbeat. The lyrics gave me a little chuckle too. It’s warm and full bodied keyboard synths fill the speakers while bleeps and buzzing bass swirl around in stereo.
The closing track is the epic “Crescent” which encompasses and holds everything I have loved and enjoyed about Ark the album. Starting off in a mysterious shroud, Brendan enters stage left to impart with his wisdom and tales of long ago. As the song continues it builds up with more and more natural and digital instruments until your whole audio spectrum is filled with pure hedonism.
Brendan Perry’s “Ark” has been a long time coming but within two minutes you can see exactly where all the time and effort has gone to. It is a masterpiece and quite unlike anything that is currently being made or released generally these days. Absolutely hands down my favourite album of 2010 so far, and quite possibly one of my favourites in the last decade. Pitch perfect!