Album Review: Bellatrix | Arcachata
It’s Sunday, May 1st and summer is in the air so much that I can smell it. The mood meter is rising and one can tell from the number of Indie Pop releases the Sanctum has been covering lately non-stop. Let’s change this up a bit and visit our beloved fringe section where everything goes. Adolfo Samudio has been intensely releasing experimental music as Arcachata since 2018 but today the spotlight’s on his Bellatrix album, released in April 2022. Talk about productivity during the pandemic. Let’s start spinning this hypothetical record and see where it takes us.
‘2021 Seasons’ prepares the listener for an unsettling ride. The vehicle is a tiny piano melody that strives to survive its own repetition throughout the eight-minute opener. It’s changing moods like there’s no tomorrow, going from jazz to rock/metal-ish and from there, to wherever Arcachata feels like exploring. This whole process of one thing changing forms endlessly is the epitome of experimental in the making. Like trying to learn the laws of Alchemy. And the concept expands in ‘Stellar Lifetimes’ where again, we have gentle keys combined with some harsh electric guitars, jazzy bass and subtle female vocals. The mix is weird as it sounds and even though the outcome is thoughtful and cohesive, the feelings expressed are disparate. Still, this one is obviously more playful that its predecessor. As I’m trying to comprehend the rules of this wondrous game Samudio is playing, there comes ‘A Holiday Somewhere Else’ which immediately puts everything in a settling place, even for a short time, like a small break made of earthly, melancholic chords combined with Drum N Bass. Now we know that the artist knows exactly what he’s doing with music, he just prefers to remain lost in the adventure most of the time. And so we are back to it with ‘The Doll Incidentals: A Slippery Slope’, slippery indeed for throwing us back to the strange side where we try to investigate the connection between the mesmerizing synths and the -revving up- guitar. Two completely different worlds co-existing but not quite get along. ‘Alhulumuqahron’ reminded me of Parov Stelar’s style and same did ‘2021 Seasons’. Not sure where this comes from but most possibly it’s the use of trumpets/trombones inside electronic soundscapes. ‘A Holiday Somewhere Else (Reprise)’ is another soothing oasis into this restless expanse of work and thankfully it flows into ‘Dying Thoughts’ like one body, giving some extra time for us to recharge before we move on to this unpredictable desert. Like a glass of cool water.
The ambience of ‘Blaupuppe’ transfuses an ethereal quality followed by contrasting, heavily processed sounds and distorted vocals. Like a robotic language or a living algorithm speaking inside the track file. Now, the haunting ‘Presagios’ opens the homonymous track ‘Bellatrix’ where, maybe for the first time, we experience an instrumental harmony, even when the dark, electric guitar comes to ‘mess things up’ a little. Percussion, keys and ethers make a super balanced mix where everything seems to fulfill the role it is given. The mainstream audience may shout ‘Finally!’ at this point. Still, the track is not satisfied without the typical assymetries that Arcachata is generously offering throughout this album. Talking about assymetries, ‘Stemming from Hummed’ is the definition of chaos, a bloated bubble of noise including melodies that struggle to reach the surface. But don’t be fooled for it’s not an easy task to create melodies, bury them under a clutter of sounds (to a point where they don’t get completely swallowed) but are audible enough to express this struggle. Very well-crafted and intriguing to say the least.
‘Jefe de Condestables Tsewang Paljor, parte 1: Ascenso y muerte’ gives off a folk-ish aura like the soundtrack of a fairy tale. There is not much experimentation or abstraction here but a clear image of a story being told through music instead. It’s about the rise and death of the legendary mountain climber Tsewang Paljor, one of the first Indians to reach the summit of Everest but found tragic death during the 1996 disaster. Samudio’s output here is undeniably the most emotional yet. The tribute is continued in ‘parte 2: Fiesta en Leh’ where we have a louder expression of the grief, a send-off dirge for the soul to be forgiven, to travel to its next vessel in peace. And that’s the most beautiful duo of conceptual tracks that could happen before the end of this journey, which comes with ‘Quick Ride’. The protagonist here is a deep, low bass while everything around it comes and goes at will. The female vocals here remain and together with the trombone, make for an obscure celebration, a dark parade that has just reached the end of its course and will now go to rest.
To sum this up, Bellatrix is a worried child of Samudio, a purely experimental body of work where a wide variety of elements try to co-exist in an unstable environment. Like an unconventional human couple seeking a line of communication, having its issues but learning from them. On the other hand, everything seems to fall into place during the second half of the album where there’s order, manifestation of feelings as well as clarity of the artist’s vision for this LP. So, experiencing Bellatrix from start to finish, gives off a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. Just like a troubled kid goes through a confusing puberty in order to grow and find its purpose. This is the most accurate image to describe this album. Cheers!
Enjoy Bellatrix here: