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Ex-Tussle head Alexis Georgopoulos Goes for Brian Eno-esque Ambience with Arp 

Wednesday, Oct 31 2007

An excuse of "creative differences" is often given as the reason for a band split, or for the departure of a specific member. In Alexis Georgopoulos' case, his decision to leave San Francisco's Tussle was indeed the result of clashing opinions, and he took a risk in stepping back from the group at a time when Tussle is doing well. The quartet has been gaining steam over the last year, largely due to its reputation for wowing crowds with improvisation-heavy live shows that incorporate Krautrock-electro fusions over tight, dub-funky rhythms.

On disc, Tussle brings the same amalgam of genres — especially on its latest full-length, 2006's Telescope Mind. Georgopoulos says he composed most of that record (his official role switched from drummer to bassist after original bassist Andy Cabic left to pursue Vetiver full time), and he explains of the disc, "I really wanted to make an album with distinct songs that flowed from one to another, but also have songs that could go into the club/underground scene." The group was able to do just that, too, releasing a remix EP this fall that included its "Warning" single reinterpreted by electro staple Hot Chip and original minimalist funksters Liquid Liquid.

Despite Tussle's relative success, Georgopoulos felt his contributions outweighed the rest of the group's, yet he wasn't getting the credit his efforts deserved. "There was resentment on both sides," he says of his relationship with Tussle. So he left the band and spawned Arp, the moniker he uses for his first solo release, In Light — a record that recalls the minimalist nature of Philip Glass and Brian Eno's ambient work.

The first thing you'll notice about In Light is the departure from the groove-oriented rhythmic pounding Tussle delivers. The opening track, "St. Tropez," starts with percolating synth riffs that serve as the backbone to deeper, more melodic piano explorations. A couple songs later, "The Rising Sun" is even more atmospheric, with distant fuzz layered around a lone flute. Warm synthesizer tones — whether they're warped, warbling, or buzzing in the background — are the foundation for the instrumental album, which carries a delicate, relaxing vibe.

Electronic-skewing albums like In Light are usually the product of heavy computer manipulation, yet the disc contains no loops or samples. "I wanted to play it live as much as possible," Georgopoulos explains. He recorded it on a four-track for a lo-fi feel: "I thought that a degraded quality, in this age of crispness, would help it stand out." One of his goals was to bridge musical machinery and the natural world, which are often thought of as opposite spheres. "If you're using electronics, you don't need them cold and robotic," he explains. "You can use them in different ways. I was hoping for something imagistic, without being cheesy."

Cut loose from formal band ties, Georgopoulos' imagination isn't limited to Arp. He's also formed another group, Expanding Head Bands, with Quinn Luke, Bing Ji Ling's alter ego. Their first project is a remix of New Zealand dream-poppers Shocking Pinks, which is headed to DFA as a 12-inch release. Other than that, the plan is to take Arp live in the near future, but Georgopoulos is still figuring out the details — such as how many people he'll need onstage to create the gentle song textures. But he anticipates the performance, when it happens, will be even more encompassing than In Light. "I've gotten better analog gear since [recording], so I think live, it will sound much better, warmer and more full-spectrum," he says.

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Michael D. Ayers


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