I do occasionally get overwhelmed with things to write about. It happens. I’m not saying that’s a bad problem to have, though. In fact, in a world of vapid garbage being pumped into our collective veins on a daily basis, having too much great music to sink my metaphorical teeth into is a pretty great thing be dealing with. I just end up feeling bad when I can’t get to it all in a timely manner. Maybe it’s the Midwesterner in me, but it feels sort of rude. So if I haven’t gotten to something that you’ve sent me, apologies. I’ve got my best team sorting through the mail as we speak. I will get to your submission and you will be heard.
One such submission is Meridian Arc’s Aphantasia. I was re-configuring the studio space over the three-day weekend and pulled Aphantasia out and threw it on the platter. Man, this thing is incredible. I christened the new space with Meridian Arc and I feel like some good juju was spread.
Meridian Arc is the solo project of drummer/graphic designer Andrew Crawshaw. Crawshaw is based in Seattle and is the drummer for Terminal Fuzz Terror. Looking to expand his creative musical outlet, Crawshaw jumped into the world of synthesizers. It seems it was a good fit, as the first full-length for his side project is an absolute heavy synth stunner. Deep space madness, melancholy grooves, and otherworldly exorcisms are about on this 2016 future classic.
Okay, so I’m sure by now Andrew Crawshaw has moved on from this release. It’s been three years, and I do see Meridian Arc dropped a two-track digital EP back in April of this year. But I feel no artist should completely abandon past accomplishments, regardless of how far they’ve advanced. Radiohead practically refuse to play “Creep”, but that song is still undeniably powerful. Paul McCartney WILL NOT play “Symphony For The Devil” despite all the letters I’ve sent. C’mon Paul! You’d do the Stones justice. Point is, I know I’m late to the party here, but this album is so damn good.
So the first thing that comes to mind when I hear Aphantasia is NOT John Carpenter. Or Fabio Frizzi. Or Tangerine Dream. I think of musician Bernard Szajner. Szajner put out the album Visions of Dune back in 1979. A concept record based on Frank Herbert’s excellent book series. I’d just really started getting into heavy synth albums at that time and this one truly stuck out. It felt dark, simple but not easy, and full of compelling sonic hooks. Meridian Arc is on that level. Crawshaw doesn’t over do it on Aphantasia. He knows that before anything there needs to be a hook and a melody. A sonic rabbit hole to crawl in and get lost. “Sea of Darkness” is that hole. A simple beat accompanies a wavering synth line that pulls you into the world Meridian Arc has built for us to explore. Title track “Aphantasia” continues that vibe. There’s a slinky, robotic rhythm that draws you in closer. The analog vibe is strong here, and the impressive list of circuital toys Crawshaw used to create the album shows he knows his way around an oscillator.
The album feels like a journey. Maybe not a concept record, but each track does convey a story. From dark vibes to more upbeat moments of light, Meridian Arc world builds here. “Positronix Matrix” is this kaleidoscope of noise, while “Multiplicity of Being” has an almost disco rhythm that leads us into an almost deep space sadness. “Locus of Control” is pure analog dread. Slow motion swaths of synth radiate from the speakers before electronic rhythms rise from the ashes. “Near in Far Future” closes out Aphantasia with a wavering melody and quiet, calming hum.
So yes, Meridian Arc’s Aphantasia is over three years old. I may be a little late to the party, but there’s still plenty to celebrate. Andrew Crawshaw has created an incredible album of heavy synth madness. Hitting on sonic touches that guys like Rudiger Lorenz, Bernard Szajner, and Klaus Schulze hit on in the 70s, Meridian Arc deep dive head first into some serious electronic territory. Put Aphantasia in your ears.