Review: Arp's Zebra is a collection of musical memories woven together at a seamless pace


The music we love invariably gets woven into a tapestry. Every once in a while you’ll catch a glimpse of those childhood moments where the simplest of melodies was all you needed. One memory reflects your teenage years when you first began listening instead of just hearing. Turn the next corner and your jazz phase comes back running. Alexis Georgopoulos', better known as Arp, Zebra is a collection of these musical memories woven together at a seamless pace. However spacious and repetitive the songs get, pieces of acoustic instrumentation appear behind the lines, and remind you that music made in a computer can still ground you in reality.

Taking center stage in Arp’s melodies are the fitful bursts of bass synth and aquatic fauna. The front half plays this role perfectly, easing you into what sounds like an entirely in-the-box affair. Georgopoulos interlaces one level of studio ingenuity with another, making a stew of sounds that come straight out of the Super Nintendo era. Ride the wave further, and you’re transported back to childhood, hearing sounds that kept you glued to the television at your parents chagrin. ‘Fluorescences’ is this exact 16-bit memory, with each makeshift percussion part playing out like a certain plumber or a little boy with a red baseball cap.

Zebra’s midsection is its weak spot. ‘Parallelism’ plays out vibraphone arpeggios with little more than brief electric piano accompaniment. If you really dig your ears in, you’ll hear the odd syncopation in the drums, but there isn’t enough of a hook or a mood to ease your mind. This is the moment where you regret your post rock phase, and hope you didn’t talk anyone’s ear off too much about your Tortoise obsession from college.

The sagging middle is worth the wait once you arrive at the album’s final trio of songs. ‘Ozu’ boasts lilting flute before ‘Reading a Wave’ arrives as one of the finest instrumental tracks of the year. This is also where Georgopoulos uses the most conventional instrumentation. Not long into the song’s moving pattern of rhodes and saxophone, drums enter that would make Elvin Jones proud. Instrumental voices enter and Julia Holter or Enya could arrive at any moment. Each piece of the band takes its turn being flashy, but the drums never step down from their arrhythmic spasms of joy. The outcome is a wonderful levitating feeling, and you won’t want the song to fade out even after 8 minutes.

After Zebra has said its peace, you’ll feel as though you just reached the back cover of a photo album. You begin to remember discovering the merits of experimental jazz and electronic music. John McLaughlin, Sonny Sharrock, and Dave King could eat their hearts out for ‘Reading a Wave’ and bits of closer ‘Fiji.’ The rough edges of ‘Moving Target’ are those grueling hours spent at a desk, and ‘Fluorescences’ is those peaceful times spent on vacation. Much more could be said about Georgopoulos’ ability to cram krautrock, jazz, and IDM so succinctly into one musical package, but Zebra is most fun to simply reminisce to.