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CD REVIEW: Ryan Rapsys - The-Novus-Arcadia
By Alex Jasperse - 07/31/2007 - 08:54 PM EDT

Artist: Ryan Rapsys
Album: The-Novus-Arcadia [2007]
Label: Erratic Productions
Genre: Electronica, drum'n'bass, trip-hop and trance
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8.5/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
CD Review:

Somewhere between Brian Eno and David Bryne’s experimental classic My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981) and Squarepusher’s Hello Everything (2006), sits Ryan Rapsys’s, The-Novus-Arcadia. With each composition balancing between highly formulaic and completely creative and spontaneous, the album enters the world of electronic music that explores what lies beyond standard structures and dance beats.

Spreading across the near limitless boundaries of electronic music, The-Novus-Arcadia is a showcase of various combinations of melodic ideas on top of disjointed and interruptive rhythmic patterns… but in a positive sense. As the first track’s title suggests, “Aperture”, opens the shutters to the audio environments that Rapsys has waiting in store. Lasting long enough for a listener to settle into one comfortable octane-fuelled beat – as though not to take them out of their comfort zone just yet – he effortlessly shifts into different rhythmic gears without consequence, while layers of sustained chords fizz and bubble in the background. A pixilated keyboard melody enters midway through to shape the track with a bit of a jazz-fusion twist, and soon things become increasingly complex as the track begins to expand and flourish with the electric charge that’s been gradually building within. And then it all comes to a halt.

Within seconds, Rapsys successfully manages to slow everything down without a messy pile-up. Distorted static waves, melodic ideas and percussive beats pair up here and there, emerging from all angles in “Dyad”. Out of a few simple textures and rhythms, his colourful combinations create atmospheres that are surprisingly complex for such instrumental minimalism. This immaculate attention to detail easily escapes any claims of sanitization and blandness, because even though there’s a defined structure to the piece, there’s an overriding freedom that encourages many of the ideas to explore their surroundings.

But then, it happens again: there’s another seamless transition, and there’s no hesitation on Rapsys’s part to pull out all stops once again during “Playing-in-the-Freeway”. It’s nothing but taillights, and within seconds there’s a frightened female vocal line that becomes particularly interesting. She tries to talk, but the hypnotic rhythmic motion that is propelling things forwards repeatedly cuts off her words. All that’s left are sounds of her breath, and within moments the distinction between her voice and the alternating percussive lines become blurred. And it doesn’t take much longer before her voice disintegrates into – and becomes a part of – the surrounding accelerating momentum.

Rapsys’s ability to create convincing moods without the guidance of a beat in “Intermezzo-I” and “Intermezzo-II”, allows him to change the album’s progression by dousing the listener in some classic soundscapes. It’s not hard to get lost in the electronic humming and the voices that fade in and out, but their darker and slightly sinister tones are beyond the ‘flower power’ sounds that are typically associated with such minimalist soundscapes.

While many songs are experimental on the one hand, on the other there are several accessible compositions such as “Rain Drop” and “Flap Flux” that incorporate elements from IDM, drill’n’bass and trip-hop into the mix. The beautiful combinations of distant and dissolving vocals, quirky digitized beats, rapid bass lines and scattered keyboard/organ melodies, fuse together a variety of delicious textural elements into an electrically vibrant and danceable format.

Granted, Rapsys has a few tracks like “Prairie-Ghost” and “Novus-Arcadia” that are ‘decent’, but that being said, it’s still amazing to listen to the amount of detail he crafts into each and every piece. Everything from the way he uses effects, and how he modulates and sculpts the sounds (just as mush as the notes themselves) raises it far above any bounds of mediocrity. Although it’s not as involving and exploratory as it could be, Rapsys’s, The-Novus-Arcadia, is still a great album. Overall, it’s an immensely enjoyable experience, and it could well become a piece of electronic art that may be a required listen in the near future.

The Verdict: 8.5/10

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