Have you ever driven down a desolate road late at night and in a momentary flash of paranoia, mistaken the ski rack on the car behind you for police lights? Maybe you’ve listened to your favorite hip hop station and felt your heart stop when you thought the sirens peppering the beat of a Ghostface track were an actual cop car about to nab you for speeding. If so, you already know ex-Def Jukie Arcsin’s steez. His latest effort, Oculus Fang, features artwork akin to Satan’s prog-rock side project’s and creepazoidical jams for your inner fiend.
Producer and multi-instrumentalist Arcsin aptly describes himself as a “murkologist” on his MySpace page, and indeed he makes beats that are muddy, grimy, and ever so unsettling. It’s as if he threw an electric guitar, some synths and an 808 into a huge bubbling cauldron to see what would come out. I’m surprised that James Wan isn’t beating down his door signing him to do music for Saw IV. Arcsin also notes a huge variety of influences including Captain Beefheart, Devo, Son House, Dr. Teeth, and The Doobie Brothers. Perhaps you’ll catch a whiff of influence from some of these artists here and there, but I think Michael McDonald would run screaming from a track like “The Circular Blades”, whose straight-outta-Castlevania synths and startling alarms are decidedly not yacht-friendly.
The album’s most haunting and beautiful track is “Scarlet Fever.” It begins with a multi-layered vocal sample reminiscent of ELO and fades into what sounds like Air at their “Virgin Suicides” creepiest. Long, lazy guitar riffs, chilly pizzicato and some lovely, jazzy horn work compliment the rich, haunting vocal sample from British 60s prog band Rare Bird. Arcsin offers a respite from the doom with “Phreaks,” the album’s first single. This track would be considered the dark track on anyone else’s record, but for Arcsin, this is bubblegum pop. It’s straight up danceable and boasts loads of layers that fade in and drop out enough to make it truly engaging. The Funkadelic sample doesn’t hurt either.
Anyone planning for a Halloween rager would be remiss in not throwing some Arcsin on their party playlist in between “Thriller” and “Nightmare On My Street.” But whatever you do, make sure you’ve got some friends around. You won’t want to listen alone.