Body of Light
The latest by Arizona desert brotherhood Alex and Andrew Jarson aka Body Of Light further hones their smoldering strain of tempestuous synth-pop into a transformative suite of anthems, reveries, and reckonings: Bitter Reflection. Written in the wake of 2019’s neo-EBM classic, Time To Kill, they sifted inspiration from hidden moments within their own arcana – childhood tapes, home movies, abandoned demos – asking themselves the question: “How can we make this grow?” Sampled snippets of voice, noise, synth, and field recordings flicker in the periphery of these 11 tracks, murmuring like nostalgias half-forgotten, or displaced memories. It’s music pulled between twin flames of truth and desire, romanticization and reality, catharsis and control, born of a bond sealed by years, dreams, and blood.
Working with Telefon Tel Aviv co-founder Josh Eustis in Los Angeles, the brothers incorporated an expanded array of live instrumentation – piano, bass, saxophone, acoustic guitar – in addition to vintage Akai samplers, Moogs, and archaic hardware, giving the album an eclectic, unpredictable palette. Opener “Get It Right” showcases their impressive refinement: sleekly cold drum machinery builds to a swooning chorus of synths and piano, then suddenly slips into a dream sequence bridge of strummed guitar and echo-shrouded vocals, before surging back to the main melody. Throughout, the songs shift gears and moods in evocative ways, as if bending to fleeting thoughts or lengthening shadows. Simmering synth lament “Strike The Match” captures the Jarsons’ unique technique of co-crafted lyrics, accruing meaning as the world turns; though written long before, the track ended up being recorded the day Russia invaded Ukraine (“I fall asleep to the candlelight / things will be different but not tonight / it wouldn’t be like you to strike the match / over and over, I can’t understand”).
A trio of intriguing instrumentals deepen the album’s scope, echoing the duo’s early experimental era as part of the influential Ascetic House collective. “Fortia,” “Hyena,” and “Deepcolorlights” drift in a prismatic gauze of whispered synths and oblique minutia, in the spirit of Boards of Canada at their most hushed and haunted. Elsewhere the record spins through a gallery of the band’s ongoing fascinations: Depeche-esque declarations of dread and excess (“This Conversation”), brooding dance floor epiphanies (“Out Of Season”), smooth Thomas Dolby city skyline melancholias (“Never Ever”), lovesick looking glass ballads laced with Art Of Noise orchestral stabs (“On This Day”). A new age demands new waves, and Body Of Light belongs at the forefront of a resurgent generation fusing modern methods with the sounds of futures past. Singer Alex Jarson sees their muse clearly, at the axis of anguished transition, temporal collapse, and, just possibly, the brink of hope: “Time is dysphoric. The dream breaks down. Everyone’s beginning to panic, but in the end something will come from it.”