By Zach Collier
Arloe is the alias of Provo, UT based electronic musician Parker Edwards. Edwards has spent the last 9 months honing and perfecting his craft. It’s apparent that this guy has a keen ear – one that pays close attention to every detail. The Strike Gold EP was originally slated for a January 22nd release, but the EP was pushed back and ultimately released at a live performance at Velour Live Music Gallery on March 17. Given the incredible sounds from Arloe’s live set (a la Sickstape Vol. 1)and how the Strike Gold EP turned out in general, I’d like to think this delay was due to a mean streak of perfectionism rather than amateur antics.
From the first effected warbles of “Strike Gold,” Arloe grabs you by the hand, pulls you into his sonic soundscape, and doesn’t let go. For me, his vocal entrance immediately drew comparisons to Ryan Merchant – the lead singer of Capital Cities – if Merchant was softer in his delivery and didn’t rely on vocal doubling. Arloe’s voice is wonderful, whether he’s melting through his lyrics in his lower register or crooning in his Bee Gees textured falsetto. It has a distinct character to it that lends itself well to electronica of this nature. The dynamic ebbs and flows in his arrangements make the synth voices in this first track sound organic. Nice little touches like the bell ding in the left ear at 1:09 and the panning tricks that enter at 1:41 keep things from getting stale. “Strike Gold” is a solid, intense opener that deserves to be the title track.
“The Gully” is hands down my favorite track on the EP. It’s got the optimism of Capital Cities’ “Safe And Sound” and the weirdness of “Kangaroo Court” and “I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo” all rolled into one. While it never swells to epic Capital Cities proportions, it doesn’t have to be loud and frantic to be effective. I’m especially fond of the anti-drop at 1:35. Arloe employs sonic space quite effectively here. Instead of getting big and bombastic after everything goes silent, the same groove enters again, only this time it comes in with this otherworldly synth sound that’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. The song continues to build, messing with filters, going into a fun half time, introducing arpeggiators and some tonally borrowed chords, before taking itself apart slowly towards the end. This track kept me guessing from the very beginning. I never knew where it was headed, and I loved that.
“Digital Arms” is a neat little track, though it’s probably my least favorite on the album. Lyrically, Arloe offers some thoughtful insight into the effect that technology has on our lives. I’m not one for songs like this – ones that analyze and comment on culture – but that’s just me. It’s part of the reason why I can’t stand a lot of singer-songwriter stuff from the 60’s. I did enjoy the hook and the cool synth bass work, though. The harmonies at points sounded like something Fun. would do.
“Howl at the Moon” features American Idol’s Jenn Blosil. Her voice fits surprisingly well with Arloe’s arrangement. This is probably the most accessible track on the album and easily the most radio ready. There’s a very cool glitch drop at 1:02 that really made this track pop and some nice arpeggiation throughout.
“Lost Away” is a nice closer. Unlike the other tracks on the album, it’s pretty subdued. It takes the tempo down and features sparser instrumentation. There are some cool 80’s synth brass sounds (think “Africa” by Toto) over the top of some tribal sounding beats and more bizarre synth sounds akin to those I loved on “The Gully.” Overall, I had no complaints with this track.
My only qualms with this EP is that it’s one where you’ll either love it or you won’t. If you’re a fan of electronic music, you’ll probably find something for you here. Arloe is a skilled producer and a very capable electronic musician who crafts some cool arrangements and writes great songs. But if electronic music isn’t your thing, I don’t think it’ll win you over.
I’m a fan of electronic music and found this EP to be highly satisfying. Easily some of the best Provo electronica I’ve heard next to Kaskade’s work. Highly recommended. I hope this isn’t the last I hear from Arloe.