Timelapse: homage to synthesiser and electronic music of the 1970s – 80s is a work of delicacy and dark beauty

Meridian Arc, Timelapse, United States, Broken Press, cassette (2020)

One of the busiest people in Seattle, Washington state, these days must surely be Andrew Crawshaw, who not only makes music in solo heavy synth project Meridian Arc but also plays in four or five other bands (including the fearsomely named Terminal Fuzz Terror as drummer) and runs graphic design and screen-printing business (and occasional record label) Broken Press with partner Danielle Skredsvig. “Timelapse” is Meridian Arc’s third album and at this time of review (June 2020) the album had been released under the Broken Press label name after other distribution plans apparently came to naught. Recorded and engineered by Crawshaw over a two-year period and a bit from May 2016 to October 2018, “Timelapse” is a throwback to the electronic sounds of the early 1980s with a nod to the soundtrack music of horror films of the period, especially those horror films made by John Carpenter (“The Fog” and cult classic “The Thing”).

Instruments used include Roland and Moog analog synthesisers among others so listeners can expect to hear the familiar tones, washes and bleep-bloops along with those feathery-whip percussion beats and needle melodies – but the difference here is Crawshaw, having limited himself to using synths and synths only, deploys his instruments in ways that show off their best features and their range of sounds. He has a very delicate touch and knows when to make a musical statement and leave it as is without hammering on it. Tracks are short but the overlay of instruments is limited to a few and the music has a sparse, even minimal feel. The moods and emotions the synths evoke and sustain can be dark and quite intense. An air of claustrophobia, even paranoia, is present in tracks like “The Way Home” and the heavy deep-drone “Distant Signals”.

Track titles suggest a narrative of space travel and extra-terrestrial contact but the instrumental nature of the short pieces allows listeners to run their own personal sci-fi or sci-fantasy flicks behind their eyelids. The short track lengths turn the music into sonic dioramas in which an action might be taking place without necessarily directing a narrative in each. It might be said though that the last three tracks “First Encounter”, “Abyss” and “The Hall”, if taken together in the order they appear on the cassette, lead to an ambivalent conclusion to the whole recording.

Ah, if only synth music back in the 1970s-80s had had such people like Andrew Crawshaw as composers treating synthesisers as worthy of the same respect that grand pianos and orchestral acoustic instruments enjoyed then! “Timelapse” is a work of beauty and art.