Grace," the poet Frank O'Hara once wrote, "to be born and live as variously as possible." Though early in his musical career, this ambitious but certainly worthy aspiration toward "variousness" might be said to be the defining characteristic behind the artistic output of Alexis Georgopoulos, aka Arp.
After all, not many people can claim to have curated and performed at New York's downtown bastion of the avant–garde, The Kitchen (where Laurie Anderson, Glenn Branca and Philip Glass cut their teeth), to have been DJ'ed by NY underground disco pioneer David Mancuso (at his legendary party The Loft), to have soundtracked a Chanel runway show per Karl Lagerfeld's request and to have released an album of minimalistic classical music (Arp & Anthony Moore’s FRKWYS 3 [RVNG Intl]).
Perhaps best described as a pop album by an avant–garde musician, MORE is an album that begins in one place and ends in another, melding bedroom art–pop with avant-garde composition to create a world of heady atmospherics and melodic song craft over its concentrated 46 minute arc. Played almost entirely by Georgopoulos, MORE reveals an impressive grasp of style and vision, following a distinct narrative, dipping into 70s art rock, autumnal baroque pop, musique concréte, minimalistic piano epics, narcotic gospel, sound library atmospheres, and delicate space folk.
Although 2010’s The Soft Wave (a New York Times “Notable Album of 2010”) may be his most–heard album so far, Georgopoulos' 2010 collaboration with Englishman Anthony Moore may provide more appropriate background for MORE. Not merely content to espouse the voguish sounds of the day, Georgopoulos decided early in 2012 that he'd abandon his analog synthesizer–centric abstractions in favor of something he'd never done, write songs. The better to challenge himself. As such, with MORE, he has made his first album–length foray into song.
The 12 pieces that make up MORE might best be heard as distinct scenes in a single film. And this being his first New York album, the city figures in significantly, both in scale and in character. “High–Heeled Clouds" locates its protagonist amongst the well–heeled, boutiqued mirages of Manhattan's 5th Avenue, a lilting waltz and a tale of delusional souls and refracting mirrors. "Judy Nylon" is all highbrow primitivism, chugging forward on an adrenaline rush of Phil Manzanera–like fuzz guitars and locomotive rhythm, picking up speed as it builds. The otherworldly, baroque atmospheres of "A Tiger In The Hall at Versailles" are a tale in contrast, with the tension of the harpsichord–led verses giving way to a lush, doe–eyed chorus, akin to a shaft of light breaking through a sinister scene. "E2 Octopus" is the first of three candy–coated morsels of musique concréte on MORE, revealing a love of innovators like BBC's Delia Derbyshire and Bernard Parmegiani and tactile field recordings. Moved by the premature passing of Broadcast chanteuse Trish Keenan, "Light+Sound" is a delicate, moving ballad awash in Mellotron and harpsichord, calling to mind the kind of softly psychedelic, autumnal atmospheres Robert Wyatt has specialized in. "17th Daydream" begins in the open air of the country and travels, by air and rail, to the rising steam of the city. The very New York–inspired, minimalist mini–epic "Gravity (for Charlemagne Palestine)” is an alternate Empire State theme, an ecstatic pull portrayed by an always–ascending pillar of sound chugging on piano, cello and spiraling guitars. "More (Blues)" suggests a stoned choirboy fronting a gospel church group, Georgopoulos' delicate delivery melding with the song's narcotic sway. The misty mix of astral folk and beach–influenced atmospherics of "Daphne & Chloe" is, simply, epic. Finally, closer "Persuasion" rides into the sun, a bookend in the form of overdriven fuzz guitars and Moog synthesizer.
MORE establishes Georgopoulos not as a stylistic shapeshifter but rather as a restless artist not content to stay put. Like a visual artist who works on a particular body of work within a larger body of work, he makes albums as complete wholes. And then he makes another. If MORE seems like quite a different beast from The Soft Wave or FRKWYS 3, as the dust settles, they will reveal an artist who follows his own trajectory, regardless of trend. If MORE proves we do not know what Georgopoulos might do next, his work is all the more compelling for it.