This split tape manages to capture what sounds like the final Ars Phonenix release (though vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Jon Glover and keyboardist/vocalist Caitlyn Grimalkin are continuing as Pass/Ages), and one of only a handful of works by Adam Batley's Viirus project. Besides both hailing from the wild lands of Florida (not what I would consider a hotbed for electronic music), they also share the commonality of creating skeletal, yet catchy and moody electronic pop, making for an exceptional pairing.
If it is truly the final release from Glover/Grimalkin and Mike Cruickshank, they are going out on an especially high note.Their four songs fit in consistently with their previous split with Burnt Hair and their Violent Rain LP with mostly midpaced structures and the occasional uptempo surprise.Lead by some excellently produced snappy synthetic drums, "Wings of a Millstone" opens their half of the tape on a strong note.Vocals are kept in the distance to maximize the sense of space created, which also accentuates the slow guitar melodies Glover provides.
The trio begin "Grey is the Only Line" with a wonderful pulsating synth line with rhythmic accents, and the guitar melody again making for an excellent focal point.The overall feel is slow, dour, and depressing, but the heavy syndrum sound gives it the edge to make it stand out strongly.The closing "Thoreau Goes to Ferguson" is similarly paced, but with a distinctly strong bass line, and Glover‚Äôs vocals mixed more up front compared to most of the other album.
The high point for the Ars Phoenix half is the previously released (as a video) "Lifetime Supply."With its faster tempo and slightly harder drive contrasting the more moody songs very well, it excels in its energy and catchiness.That edge, plus a memorable chorus from both Glover and Grimalkin, results in one of the band‚Äôs strongest works, and one that makes their imminent dissolution even more disheartening.
On the other half, The Viirus begins with at first a loose progression of analog synths on "Our Image" that quickly transitions into a fast paced drum machine lead piece.Batley's vocals eventually appear, muted in a very fitting manner.The closing song "Forever (Unlasting)" has a similarly stripped down, but extremely effective arrangement.A catchy synth sequence and snappy drums result in an exceptional sounding work; a mix that may not be overly complicated but excels from the basics.
The sharp drum machine programming stands out sharply on "Freddy‚Äôs Hand" with throbbing synths behind, giving a dark, bleak feel immediately to the song.With Batley‚Äôs vocals taking on a more monotone, disconnected sound, the piece comes together with a strong hint of EBM to it.The following "Mask My Face" goes in a different direction, immediately apparent from the stammering 808 beat that opens the piece up.The intentionally Spartan arrangement, and the heavily vocoded vocal style makes for an oddly loose piece amidst the more structured songs.
Ars Phoenix's more moody half of this tape is balanced very well with The Viirus' synthetic, yet more driving sound overall.With the latter‚Äôs eccentricity and the former‚Äôs stand out "Lifetime Supply," the total package is a superlative one.My only gripe is that neither of these bands were active when I served my time in Florida, since it would have made for a much better experience overall.