Tone of Arc has a sound that was most likely inspired by many mornings after waking up from a huge night out, grabbing the bass guitar, firing up the synths and jamming til the sun goes down. Full of punk funk basslines, the music is driven by loose disco drums and percussion which sometimes results in epic instrumental jams. You could say that they are heavily influenced by LCD Soundsystem -and you wouldn’t be too far off in doing so- but that would be lazy, as Tone of Arc is more like LCD Soundsystem’s heavily medicated cousin: full of ketamine basslines, minimal drums and psychedelic lyrics.
Derrick Boyd is the driving force behind Tone of Arc: singing on the majority of tracks and stoking the engines behind the beats. He is one of those rare talents who is musically self taught; carving out his own niche as a result. It was No.19 Music head honcho, Jonny White (he of Art Deparment), who heard Boyd’s music and helped to streamline it into a more cohesive product: Dead Seal was the result – a moniker which saw him release on Crosstown Rebels and My Favorite Robots; however, a name change was initiated for this debut album, ‘The Time was Right’, to usher in a new era for Boyd… and what an exciting new era waits for Boyd and us.
Opening track ‘Surrender’ features an almost Pink Panther-like synth line that is driven by an ominous bass line and sexy, nonchalant sounding guitar licks; Boyd rapping about seemingly nothing before it all explodes into an upbeat and measured finale. The sex levels are cranked up a notch with the slow burn of ‘Love Kissed’ which features Boyd’s partner in crime, Zoe Presnick (Boyd’s girlfriend outside of music), on backing vocals; a track that is almost reggae-like in its happiness and full of clever little fx that give this cut a super wonky feel. A heavily synthesized vocal starts off ‘Chalk Hill’ before a solid kick and sideways bass gets things moving along – the press release correctly stating that this is a Clash inspired piece of brilliance.
‘Lost in the Machine’ has some anxious drum fills that are dropped all over the place: a tense jam that sounds like it’s from a movie soundtrack; played right at that moment when the shit is about to hit the fan. Butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth vocals from Boyd covers the funk bass laden ‘Where You Belong’, Presnick complimenting his vocals with a chorus that exclaims: ‘We get high… if it feels real good we should do what we should in the sky.’ Good times indeed. Next up is possibly the biggest single from the album: the cover of the 1987 Q Lazarus single ‘Goodbye Horses’ (more famous perhaps as that track in the movie Silence of the Lambs in which Buffalo Bill dances with his ‘jewels’ tucked between his legs). Boyd’s vocal tone is a match made in heaven for this cover; he doesn’t stray too much from the original, but he manages to crank the yearning feel of this track to 11.
‘People at the Door’ is full of disco guitar jams, care free percussion, and a melody that will sit with you for weeks. The lyrical lament of ‘The Time Was Right’ is Boyd at his best: he is singing about regret and insecurities –channeling Matthew Dear along the way- over the top of a very wobbly bass line before he brings in a Caribbean funk bass, leading the way for an ‘EDM’-sounding, uplifting synth to turn the track into one, happy fucking song. ‘Hardly Standing’ is one of those instrumental jams that sounds like it was recorded in his garage – more music for Boyd’s imaginary movie. Presnick takes the spotlight in the moody ‘Sound Sail’; a beautiful piano led track that sees Presnick sing about better times long gone. ‘Left Field’ closes out the album with a sound that is very ‘left field’ compared to what we’ve heard so far leading up to this – a track that has a standard 4/4 blueprint that wouldn’t seem out of place in an Ellen Allien set.
Electronic artist’s albums are usually a very hit and miss affair; littered with dance floor tracks that works well in DJ sets, but not so much as standalone tracks. Tone of Arc has given us an extremely intriguing release that will keep you listening til the very last track, and there really is a freshness that permeates throughout ‘The Time was Right’ which should still sound great in 10 years time. Tone of Arc has somehow managed to add a touch of Matthew Dear, a hint of Woolfy, and a sly nod to LCD Soundsystem in their music, but at the same time they are standing tall as a new and unique voice in today’s overcrowded scene.