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CD Review: Arrowhead 

click to enlarge Arrowhead, Arrowhead, 2013, Pitchfork Wreckerds
  • Arrowhead, Arrowhead, 2013, Pitchfork Wreckerds

Arrowhead sounds like Pitchfork Militia guitarist Peter Head's long-considered response to "state" music—music of which the primary purpose is to produce heightened mental states. Most religious and ritualistic music could be called state music, as well as the tuba-heavy music of the actual State, the State at war. But the idea of music as neuro-technology is most powerfully associated with New Age, and that is the terrain that Head and Michael Patrick explore with Arrowhead. To understand the modification that Arrowhead wishes to perform upon the New Age, look no further than the title of track one: "Darkness Is Good." In most respects, this is meditative, instrumental New Age music, made of earth and ether in equal measure, woven in gradually shifting patterns, rich in omen and aboriginal evocations. Arrowhead simply permits more darkness, more disturbance, and more hints of menace on the periphery of these engrossing, desert-themed pattern studies.

Menace is easy to convey via the ominous synth pad, but Arrowhead is quite above that. The band upsets in ways more subtle and acute, via skittering synth junk and other sonic irritants: insect-husk percussion, distant, broadcast-grade voices, and the spidery pawing of kalimbas. It's a potent timbral mix, especially in its balance of dry and wet, of standard rock instrumentation, electronics, and "world" instruments, including Head's many one-of-a-kind home builds. The best compositions here—like "Darkness Is Good" and the stunning, motile minimalism of "Big Deep"—do, in fact, change the state.

  • John Burdick reviews Arrowhead's newest album of the same name.

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