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The Arcs and their album Electronic Chronic: Heaven is a beautiful place

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On the cover, a starry sky arches over a desert landscape with a pyramid. In the foreground rises a lighter with the words “Swift” on it. From him falls a shadow that looks like a grim reaper.

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“Electrophonic Chronic”, the second studio album by the American soul band The Arcs, is the happiest mourning record imaginable. The lighter on the gloomy cover is reminiscent of Richard Swift, who died in 2018 at the age of 41 as a result of his alcohol addiction. He marked his lighters with his name so they wouldn’t be stolen.

The Arcs are a kind of neosoul supergroup, founded by Dan Auerbach, who made the rise from garage to stadium band with the Black Keys. For the Arcs, who released their debut album Yours, Dreamily in 2015, he teamed up with organist Leon Michels, bassist Nick Movshon and drummer Homer Steinweiss from the New York label Daptone Records, which features soul singers such as Sharon Jones or Charles Bradley had helped to achieve his late breakthrough.

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And of course with Richard Swift, who has been omnipresent as a producer and musician since the noughties. In addition to his work for bands like The Shins or Foxygen and musicians like Damien Jurado or Lætitia Sadier, he had released eight solo albums of exquisite songwriter pop. The recordings for “Electrophonic Chronic” took place with Swift. According to Auerbach, the band recorded around a hundred songs whenever the musicians had time to meet in a studio. An almost manic-looking productivity.

Twelve tracks from the sessions eventually made it onto “Electrophonic Chronic”. “Everything is from the Swift era,” Auerbach assured in an interview. “I just edited the songs a bit, mainly adding a few little overdubs here and there. The album was finished. Every time we got together we recorded music, non-stop.”.

The album begins with an ultra-dry bass line, a tooting Farfisa organ and sharp brass sections, to which Auerbach demands in a voluptuous voice: “Keep on dreaming now!”. As with “Yours, Dreamily”, the psychedelic soul of the late sixties is the most important benchmark.

But the arcs are not clumsy adepts, they pay homage to the genre and ironize it at the same time. “Eyez” crosses elevator music and calypso rhythms with “do-do-do-n-doo” background choirs. “River” cites the sugary string pomp of the Philly sound and the fevered voodoo rock of Dr. John.

The most beautiful song on the album is the love ballad “Heaven Is A Place”, in which Auerbach praises the beauty of heaven in falsetto. Heaven, it says, is the place where lovers meet again. Impossible not to think of Richard Swift.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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