ARP OF THE COVENANT – ARP of the Covenant
(2006 Rock is Dead Records)
The first song of ARP of the Covenant’s debut eponymous CD is entitled “Bad Alternator” but it seems that their electrical systems are functioning just fine. Consisting of Mark Siegenthaler on Fender Rhodes piano and ARP synthesizer, Brad Townsend on bass and Nick Zielinski on drums and programming, AOTC blend the jazzy fusion of groups like Return to Forever with early electronic music a la Kraftwerk. Add the progressive rock of the Canterbury groups like Soft Machine and Gong and stir in some modern flourishes like Depeche Mode and Sigur Ros for good measure and the end result is a potent instrumental form of music that is atmospheric, moody and downright beautiful.
AOTC cover Depeche Mode’s “Stripped,” stretching it out to over twelve minutes and bringing it to a crescendo of controlled chaos. Both “Stripped” and a ten-minute rendition of Sigur Ros’ “Untitled Track 1” were recorded live in Ann Arbor. In typical progressive form, four of these ten songs eclipse the ten-minute mark. A cover of the Hammerhead’s “Blow By” gives Siegenthaler’s ARP a chance to stretch out and he takes full advantage of that as the song’s monster riff is driven to the hilt by the rhythm section. “Master Li Poses with his American Birthday Cake” gets very spacey, with the ARP oscillating and the Rhodes panning and creating a swirling sensation. This is music that will affect you and is perhaps best experienced with headphones. “ARP of the Covenant Theme Song” is a quirky tune constructed around a quirky synth lick and some impressive, syncopated change-ups on the drums. The most unusual track has to be a version of the Eurythmics’ “Jennifer” (from their Sweet Dreams album). Zielinski’s drumming is spectacular throughout the disc, and Townsend’s bass playing is inventive. A hidden tenth track is another wild romp on the ARP built around a massive bass riff from Townsend.
AOTC comes off with a lot more energy live, and progressive and instrumental music aficionados need to see this band in performance. They’ve only had one show so far but if that gig was any indication, there is bound to be a receptive, enthusiastic audience for them once the word of the Covenant gets out.