Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
As New York’s increasingly chill/dark waves of synths grow colder and more insular, our own Alexis Georgopoulos, a.k.a. one-man bliss machine Arp, holds tight to the Düsseldorf dream of the ethereal, expansive, extroverted and quixotic. Formerly the drummer (then bassist) of San Fran post-punks Tussle, Georgopoulos split the band to create 2007’s cult hit In Light, a glowing hot barb of sunset-ready Harmonia synths and hypnotic drone. After a move to New York, he’s returned with the follow-up, The Soft Wave (due September 7th, via Smalltown Supersound)–easily one of the best local releases of the year. Though Arp was once a strictly synth affair, The Soft Wave very subtly adds more instruments to Georgopoulos’s arsenal of bleary balearics. But the album’s most arresting track is a lone vocal song, “From A Balcony Overlooking The Sea,” a bittersweet murmur-and-soar inspired by John Cale and director Eric Rohmer. The track is a breezy sandgazer whose most visible influence is the vocal records of Brian Eno (right down to that Frippian guitar solo!), creating a melancholy-yet-hopeful vibe inspired by life changes. “I had just made the decision to leave San Francisco for New York,” says Georgopoulos. “I was thinking about my friends. Things ending. Things beginning.”
What is “From A Balcony Overlooking The Sea” about?
Well, I hesitate to limit anyone’s interpretation. But I can say it’s about a man writing a letter to an old friend or lover while looking out over the sea from his balcony in an old hotel. I see him in a white linen suit in the south of France.
What do Eno’s rock records mean to you?
Another Green World was the first Eno album I heard. Then Discreet Music and Evening Star. Lately, I find myself listening to the less abstract, more songy stuff more. But yeah, I love the vocal records. It’s funny because he’s not the most gifted singer and he actually plays very little of the actual music on his records. But he came up with some amazing melodies and his choice of collaborators was perfect.
Tell me about your decision to do vocals on this track.
I’d written and demoed a number of songs with words for The Soft Wave sessions. After listening to what had been recorded, “From A Balcony…” seemed appropriate while the other seemed destined for the next album. At first, the idea of including just one song with vocals seemed sort of bizarre. But then, that very thing began to appeal to me. The next album will be entirely vocal songs. This song is the bridge to the next record.
What was the session like?
I remember it being pretty late when I tracked the piano. I had an idea of what the song was about but hadn’t written any lyrics. I scribbled some words down and did a take. Philip Manley, the engineer, said, “Alright, great! What’s next?” I said, “Are you kidding? That was a scratch, a practice run.” He said, “No way. That was a great take. You have to keep the first take if it’s good.” So I added a second, harmonizing vocal and decided to trust his judgment.
Tell me about your decision to record this record to two-inch tape.
Most of my favorite records were recorded to tape. There’s just something about it, the way that things can sound far away but also very present. Now, everything is just butted right up against your ears. There’s no space between you and the sound. It’s just a wall. If you record 16 tracks or less on two-inch, the space on the tape itself creates a spaciousness, a wide angle.
What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?
There are so many amazing places, I don’t think I could pick one. But I think I’ve eaten at Café Mogador more than any other restaurant in New York.
Arp plays Friday, August 27 at Coco 66 with Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro.
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