|"coming to terms" reviews||U.S. reviews|
While the band name conjures images of an evil talking gorilla à la Planet Of The Apes, Arco sounds like Belle & Sebastian, only without the groovy 70s sound. On the other hand, they could be Radiohead's fragile younger brother. One of the albums standout tracks, "All This World" is very slow, made up of an Ebow Guitar line, piano, bass and (slow) drums with a slight bit of organ thrown in here and there. The chorus includes acoustic guitar strums and electric lead. Lyrics are almost mournfully sung/whispered. "how many strangers d'you have to meet?/how many old friends d'you have to see?/with how many lovers d'you have to sleep?/to know that you're alone/in all this world." The songs "Alien" and "Driving At Night" have been released as singles. There's a buzz going on about this band and they very well deserve it. Coming To Terms is an album that you can't help but love.
I recently got the Driving at Night single, which was taken from this album. This was the first thing I had heard from Arco, and I was blown away. I mean, this was Pedro the Lion's turf, and I didn't expect anyone to come along and challenge it so convincingly.
Another song from this album was released as a CD single, "Alien." It's quite a bit busier and as a result, a little more upbeat. The rest of the songs don't quite fall short of these two, they just don't scream for your attention. Each song is a beautifully constructed ballad of loss and regret, with no rays of sunlight. My favorite song is one that was included on the "Driving at Night" single, "All This World." The low-key tone causes some of the songs to be ignorable, but it gives the other songs a power not often found in such simple surroundings.
Only rarely can the music made by a band have been more impeccably matched to the name of its record label. London-based trio Arco make slow, serene, dilatory music on which to float away come the next cold, crisp winter's morning. The lyrics, though, imply the oppposite; going on those alone, Arco should perhaps be releasing their albums on Nightmarey Records. Chris Healey's brow-beaten, world-weary words belie the music over which they're plaintively sung, leaving the careful listener to chalk up another mark on the board labelled "bands who are not quite what they first appear". Still, contradictions of this ilk are rarely a bad thing - remember how Morrissey's often bleak lyrics managed to blend so well with Johnny Marr's chirpy, major-key harmonies? - and so it proves here. The likes of Alien and Driving At Night will provide melancholaholics with a fix of lyrical sorrow, and the more musically-minded with a lovely, ethereal diversion from the harsh reality of city life. In a word? Dreamy. But of course...
It's late at night. Outside, the rain drizzles, pattering against the window. It's dark, the room's barely lit, and you're melancholic and alone. A perfect time to listen to the incredible new Arco album. I stumbled upon the Arco single 'Driving At Night' a few weeks ago, and was dazzled by its beauty. I finally managed to get hold of the album, and certainly didn't expect it to be as wonderful. Imagine my surprise when the album is everything the single was, and more.
Arco's world is a cold, desolate one. They sing of loss, loneliness, and a feeling of detachment from the world. Yet vocalist Chris Healey never sounds detached, or jaded. He has a voice so rich yet so fragile, reminiscent of Bob Wratten of The Field Mice and Trembling Blue Stars, or even that chap from Geneva who used to be a choirboy. He is accompanied by a simple mix of guitars, and drums, with the occasional strings or flute. The whole album succeeds in being a testament to the fact that sometimes the simplest of musical forms can be the most effective, the overall sound being not dissimilar to some of the most gentle alt-country bands. Dakota Suite, for one, spring to mind almost immediately. Only rarely does the accompaniment build to the point of becoming imposing, and when it does it is to breathtaking effect.
Opener 'Speak' sets the tone for the album perfectly. Vocals and acoustic guitar alone, woven together, pierce the silence, leading to the truly beautiful 'Alien', a lovingly arranged piece that, as it ends, fading into nothingness, genuinely leaves the listener with a cold feeling of being alone, the alien of the title. 'Driving At Night' is here, obviously, every bit as tremendous as before, having even more of an impact by virtue of the fact that it's now part of a remarkable whole.
It's still possible to pick out a few stand-out tracks. 'Grey' literally sends shivers down your spine. Chris Healey's voice suddenly becomes engulfed in one of the record's explosions of sound, before the accompaniment ends as quickly as it began and leaves his voice alone in silence, the effect of which is awe-inspiring. Similarly, the b-side to 'Driving At Night', 'All This World' is here and manages to be even more powerful. But the truly incredible track is a brief acoustic number called 'Babies Eyes'. The lyrics manage to say so much with so little effort, a story of the coldness of time passing relentlessly told in fifty beautiful words. The feeling is conveyed with all the skill demonstrated by such wonderful artists as Smog and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. You'd have to be completely heartless not to be moved.
Arco aren't original, obviously. Slo-fi alt-country records are released every week, and bands wallow in melancholy with startling regularity. But rarely do they do so with such timeless beauty, rarely do they so successfully recreate that frail feeling of desolate loneliness. If there is any fairness in the world then Arco should prepare themselves for success. And hearts should prepare to be broken. (PH)
|Comes With A Smile magazine
Slo-core is an oft misapplied term, but in the music of the androgynously voiced Chris Healey it finds a fitting home. Certainly, comparisons to Low apply here, but primarily in regards to Mimi's and Chris' vocal similarities. The half-speed instrumental structures these gloom-beguiled lads construct around those vocals are far more secondary a parallel, being that Healey's creations adhere to a poppier brand of winsomeness, and are as likely influenced by shoe-gazer bliss-outs as the miniscule chord-progressions of Low and company. Lyrically, Healey mirrors the dreamy delicacies of his music, sketching impossibly romantic tales of misanthropy that are guided by the knowledge that his music is gorgeous enough to engulf the benignly outlined negativity of his worldview (though I could easily state the reverse, I suppose). Movie and Babies Eyes are especially good examples of this symbiosis, their brevity only strengthening their lingering appeal. Much like a Renoir film, Coming To Terms captures the isolation and desperation of its authors, yet codes salvation within the transcendency of its orchestrations. Which is good, because, what is life without hope? (g. c. weeks)
|TOP magazine (Tower Records)
A prediction: ARCO will never be asked to support Steps on a tour of the nation's holiday camps. A low-key, acoustic three-piece led by the pronouncedly sensitive Chris Healey, Arco naval-gaze with an intensity that leaves a lot of their peers standing, gawping. Unsurprisingly, then, their debut album, Coming To Terms (Dreamy)****, isn't exactly a barrel of laughs. Songs are small, brittle, fractured and short, Healey sounding as if lit only by candlelight and standing in a room no bigger than a matchbox. But the effect is also enormously haunting, often quite riveting. 'Driving At Night', for instance, may well be about doom and gloom - "Like driving at night/When the illusion of going somewhere/Keeps me alive" - but the effect is so eerily beautiful it causes goosebumps to stay well and truly goosed. Alongside the likes of Nick Drake and Mark Eitzel, Chris Healey makes achingly sad music that goes straight for the heart and strips it of all protection. Arco are really worth celebrating. (Nick Duerden)
Following a brace of well received EPs in 1998, 'Longsighted' and 'Ending Up', Arco, the trio based around vocalist and songwriter Chris Healey seemed to disappear from view. Until now. Following the recent release of their third EP 'Driving At Night' the band are about to release their debut album 'Coming To Terms'.Whilst admittedly somewhat on the short side, the 33 minutes of music that comprises 'Coming To Terms' is some of the most beautiful, fragile and ultimately euphoric music you'll hear during this or indeed any year. Although at times introspective and heartbreakingly sad, the catharsis undertaken by the album as a whole induces feelings of joy, hope and tranquillity. Chris Healey's whispered, delicate yet also robust vocals are excellent throughout, no more so than on the albums closer, the irresistible 'Lullaby'. Backed up by Nick Healey (Chris' identical twin brother) on drums and Dave Milligan on bass and guitars, the playing is simple and uncomplicated as are the arrangements. In fact these gentle songs are so beguilingly intimate that they are rendered all the more indelible as a result. Occasionally the arrangements are fleshed out with additional instrumentation such as on the wonderful 'Accident' where the trumpet brings to mind Eric Matthews' 'Fanfare', or the mournful cello on the short but unforgettable lament 'Movie'. Anyone with more than a passing interest in the minimalist gentle pop of the likes of Low, Elliott Smith or East River Pipe should investigate this forthwith. Arco's blend of melancholia and mournful pop music really is something special. Demanding little more than half an hour of your time 'Coming To Terms' is half an hour of quality time that you'll be wanting to spend again and again. (Geraint Jones)
"ALBUM OF THE ISSUE 1
ARCO 'Coming To Terms' (Dreamy)
Deeply personal - that's Dreamy Records, and Arco are Dreamy personified. It's no secret that I've been waiting for this album ever since the first Arco 7" dropped through my letterbox what seems like forever ago (probably nearer two years). And now that Chris Healey and his friends have finally been able to take enough time out of their busy schedule of living faded, romantic lives to pick these eleven hopefuls the least you can do is listen too. Having been my favourite band that no-one's heard of for so long now, it's surprisingly difficult to get them across to you, to know where to begin. From barely picked guitar and voice, a breeze gently swelling with some open brass and woeful viola, Arco are to loneliness what Dakota Suite are to bereavement: it's most thoughtful translators of tired emotion and the sheer weight of the emptiness that remains. I'm worried about this review because I'm making it sound depressing, but it's not; Coming To Terms is a beautiful record that won't demand anything. It waits to be heard, and it should be heard. Just not outside your bedroom."