On The Record: Arcane Roots "Melancholia Hymns"
This blog series is at best infrequent, but I’m still adamant it could eventually become really cool. Especially if I keep using it to feature really cool records. “Melancholia Hymns” by Arcane Roots is a really, really cool record
Released in 2017 on Easy Life Records (Sony’s imprint home for some incredible new rock bands), this album marks a huge shift in the sound of Arcane Roots. Before they were often frenetic; combining jagged math rock timings with high, soaring vocals, odd structures with pop sensibilities and overtly complex musicianship with breakneck energy.
“Melancholia Hymns” is a more considered record. The almost obnoxious energy of the band’s previous releases has been replaced with slowly building creeping layers of lush analogue synths and delicate vocals. The band were no stranger to quieter moments, but they were never this textured or brooding.
Explosions of energy and crushing heaviness still appear throughout, but this time the huge riffs and scathing screams only rear their head to act as dynamic crescendos. This element of the band’s sound is less apparent before, but its deployment is incredibly artful. People who associate a lack of volume and chaos with growing up would say this is the band “maturing”. Those with minds that aren't so small would just call it different.
It's incredibly impressive how big this record sounds for a band who are still just a trio. It’s a testament to their songwriting craft that this album sounds genuinely cinematic. Lilting synths, soothing vocal harmonies and twittering drum machines building into gargantuan guitars and colossal climaxes...these songs are all miniature journeys into richly textured, dynamic and beautifully melodic music.
"Indigo" and "Curtains" are self-enclosed epics, more compositions than songs, while "Off The Floor" and "Matter" bring a sense of pace to proceedings to balance out the album's tracklisitng. If more band’s had this kind of ambition when it comes to pushing at the boundaries of their own sound, the state of music would be much better. But what’re you going to do?
If you're looking for sonic comparisons it's like if Biffy Clyro went art rock after "Infinity Land" or if Muse were less self-indulgent or if Radiohead loved Thursday.
Also, lest we forget, the art direction and design involved in this record is stunning. Sure, it’s not a brightly coloured piece of vinyl but the linear notes are totally engrossing and visually engaging. The use of natural textures and landscapes with minimalist, modern lighting design and type is really, really beautiful.
Not only that, but every time I put this record on I reach for the linear notes to explore a bit more. Not a common occurrence, but one that speaks volumes about the quality of the work. In fact, the art direction throughout the band’s entire release campaign is completely stunning.
The texture of the visuals is a perfect companion to the range of sonic textures on “Melancholia Hymns”. This is a really special record, and I’m so pleased to have it as a part of my collection.