The immediate impression one is likely to get when they first listen to Soulscape is that Arbo is an electronic act. The opening song “Moon” could easily fit that bill: it's a mix of rigid beat, effect-laden vocals, and a complex soundscape of keys and synths. However, a large section of Soulscape is organic-sounding guitars. So the question is this: how do you classify Arbo?
The man himself, Josh Arbo, is a student of studio composition with an admitted focus on engineering as well. The technical aspects of what this means sadly goes over my head, but from what I can gather it means there's a lot of effort put into how things sound. This is clear on any given track, but what becomes apparent is that Arbo loves changing textures.
“Houses” begins with ringing guitars and quiet percussion. Arbo's own vocal performance seems lethargic as well, meandering to the changing point about three minutes in. Then we are buried in sounds: something deep in the background sustains through layers of buzz, the guitars suddenly become more jagged and pointed. When the vocals return, more dramatic then when we started, there's no more room for anything else. The song stops being a song and is instead a carefully measured collection of sounds.
At first “Promenade,” the album's sole instrumental, seems like it will return to the opener's electronica influences. What starts as a mechanical beat and throbbing synths (echoed with a cutting electric guitar) evolves into a high-reaching epic reminiscent of hair-metal songs; the drums boom louder as the synth ascends. Elements rearrange in the second half with the more aggressive sounds taking to the forefront. It's the ability for all these pieces to change yet flow together seamlessly that will keep your attention.
Soulscape is a complex, beautiful thing. Layered in inventive sounds and textures, there's tons to be discovered here, even for those who don't have finely-tuned ears.
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