Welcome to Beandon’s Musical Corner, the only place on campus for in-depth, exhaustive reviews of the latest releases in rock, jazz, experimental … and pretty much everything else. Brandon Rupp (also known by his mononymous musical title “beandon,” under which he releases music and DJs as KZSU’s Student Music Director) explores a new title and gives unfiltered feedback, regardless of the genre. Feel free to send him music — he’d love to take a look!
In the current age of the internet, websites like Bandcamp and SoundCloud let virtually anyone create and release music that no corporatized major label will ever touch. For many years, I have been following one such independent artist: Arvid, the mononymous name of Luke J. Ross, out of New York. From his cassette-recorded debut “Old Factory Living,” a fantastic slice of quirky bedroom pop, to his more mature (and masterful) sophomore effort “Goodnightdaydream.,” Arvid’s career arc has left me surprised, amazed and, most significantly, excited for his next step. With 2022’s “Pyreburning,” Arvid continues his streak of great music, venturing into his most experimental and layered production to date.
I was able to get a hold of Arvid for an email interview and was excited to finally get some insight into his artistic process. Arvid wrote to The Daily that music therapy early in life inspired his initial love of the art form. “I spent my whole life kinda jumping from instrument to instrument in school until I got my first guitar when I was 12, and just never really felt like putting it down,“ he wrote. He added, “There’s no more efficient a way for me to convey my feelings and ideas than through music.” Based on the quality of his output, I’m inclined to agree.
While musical similarity to Ween, Animal Collective, Neutral Milk Hotel and Alex G can be somewhat gleaned throughout his work, he wrote to The Daily about his more obscure influences, citing “The Residents,” “Robert Wyatt, especially his Rock Bottom record,” “Talk Talk” and “Scott Walker.” I was incredibly impressed by the sheer range of music hitting Arvid’s ears — these are some of the best experimental musicians of all time.
The opening track “Headlights” is a beautiful ballad ripe with fantastic guitar interplay. Twinkling electric guitars are backed by firmly strummed acoustic chords, and, after the first verse and chorus, the song explodes into a psychedelic 7/4 passage. Through and through, the instrumental production shines as a clear progression of Arvid’s sound. The track’s lyrics explore paranoid themes of isolation and distrust — the track’s repeated mantra is “Hey / What are you doing here? / I don’t know who you are / There’s nobody inside / And I don’t like the look of your headlights.”
The album immediately transitions into the second track “Windows” with a churning, staccato noise (resembling Animal Collective’s “For Reverend Green”) permeating the mix. The song quickly develops into a beautiful psychedelic pop tune propelled by a unique chord progression and a driving drum beat. One notable change from his first two releases is the tendency for Arvid to explore a much more progressive song structure: almost every track here changes significantly throughout its runtime, leaving the audience feeling multiple different emotions in the context of one four-minute pop tune.
The country-tinged “Ghosty” is the most lighthearted yet charming moment on “Pyreburning,” with fun, shuffling percussion and dreamy vocal melodies. This track manages to strike the perfect balance between accessibility, creative production and instrumentation. “Ghosty” is a wonderful pop single distorted by Arvid’s inventive brand of psychedelic noise-manipulation (in the best way possible).
It is “Garden’s Gone,” however, that claims the title of my favorite song. The whimsical guitar melody, hushed vocals and ambient outro comprise the best moments of pop bliss seen on “Pyreburning.” The chord progression is once again very distinctive, and the guitar tone is reminiscent of what I think has become Arvid’s signature sound: guitar so buried in effects, it is virtually indistinguishable from the synth that’s backing it.
The most significant upgrade seen in the creation of “Pyreburning” versus Arvid’s previous work is in its experimental structure. In an A/B-side dynamic that reflects David Bowie’s masterpiece “Low,” the A-side features a few cuts of nimble, upbeat pop contrasted by an instrumental, long-form B-side. In Arvid’s case, the entire B-side is one continuous track, “The Pyre,” which features droning synths straight out of “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” walls of noise reminiscent of harsh noise rock and tribal drumming that recalls Boredoms’ “Vision Creation Newsun.”
Over the track’s 21-minute runtime, it effectively morphs from movement to movement, cycling through a myriad of gripping instrumental passages that flow seamlessly. While I was initially skeptical of its length and positioning in what is essentially a five-track album, the song truly delivers a satisfying conclusion to the record. “The Pyre” constitutes Arvid’s most meticulous production to date, especially when paired with a fantastic mix that elevates every sonic detail. At some points, the song sounds as if it’s about to go off the rails, such as in the dissonant middle section of “The Pyre, Pt. 1,” which sounds like the inside of a nuclear power plant on the verge of meltdown — but Arvid is able to immediately bring back the listener every single time. Moments like these are contrasted with the more ambient sections of “The Pyre,” which feature quick-moving and arpeggiated synth lines backed with wave-like pads coming in and out of the mix.
“The Pyre, Pt. 2” sounds exactly like a classic Fishmans track, with its reversed percussive pattern and dreamy guitar/piano lines seeming like a direct reference to the brilliant album-long composition “Long Season.” More references to this Fishmans’ masterpiece are seen in the third part of the composition, as it seems a paraphrased version of the ending melodic line of “Long Season” plays throughout. All of the moments where Arvid’s influence can sometimes be worn too obviously on his sleeve, however, don’t detract from the record — instead, they provide a better context for the independent artistic creation process that fueled “Pyreburning.” In many ways, picking up on all of the references and nods throughout the record is both an index of influence and a fun way to engage deeper with the creation of the work itself. At the end of the day, it just shows that Arvid is just some guy like all of the rest of us … who happens to record brilliant psychedelic pop gems in his spare time.
While I liked this latest release, I still herald “Goodnightdaydream.” as not only Arvid’s masterpiece but also easily one of my favorite albums of the last decade. “Pyreburning,” however, goes beyond being a worthy successor and turns itself into another wonderful left-field swing for Arvid’s dynamic discography. In many ways, his work is inspirational: I can commend someone like Arvid, who has been able to create major-label-quality records from the comfort of his own bedroom. If you enjoy any of the artists I name-dropped throughout this entire article, or just want a fun, unique musical experience, go listen to this record immediately.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.