An exuberant tribute to classic New York club culture.
When a new Arp record pops up in the shop, you're never sure what you're going to get. Whatever it is, though, will be in preternaturally good taste. Over the last 15 years, Arp, real name Alexis Georgopoulos, has cut a diverse path through the US underground. His last record, ZEBRA, saw him working with an ad hoc live ensemble in his home studio to craft minimalist pop music touching on Fourth World, spiritual jazz and kosmische. The year before that, Georgopoulos released an album of Balearica with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma called Fragments Of A Season. That followed an ambient album, Inversions for Geographic North. Then you have his dance collaborations (Q&A with Quinn Luke; Masks with Patricia), his remixes for the likes of Lindstrøm, and his now-defunct space-rock band, The Alps.
Arp's online mixes (for NTS and otherwise) lay bread crumbs for what we might hear next. On RA.653, we get yet another side of Arp, an all-vinyl disco and house mix informed by his pilgrimages to The Loft and Lower Manhattan's A1 Record Shop, and more generally, ten years living in New York City.
What are you up to now?
The past two months have been focused on working with my new ensemble, a group I put together to play the material from ZEBRA. It took a second to figure out how to present things live, primarily because of the instrumentation—marimba, Minimoog, among other fairly cumbersome instruments. But I'm really happy with how it's taken shape, the guys are great, amazing players and we've been having a great time. We debuted last week at the Mexican Summer ten-year party and we're heading into the studio in two weeks.
There's also a few end-of-year things on deck as well. A new episode of Cult Cargo, one of my shows for NTS which focuses on international stuff, which will air this week. It's a great one from Josiah Steinbrick, focusing on his favorite releases of the year. And then, I'm prepping for a yearlong mix that I'll do online, where I post one track a day, for 365 days. It will start at the end, the last song, and moonwalk back to the beginning from there. No mixing on that one, obviously, ha! That will start the first week of January.
How and where was the mix recorded?
In my apartment, with my current set-up—two Technics, an E&S, two Nagaoka cartridges (thanks to Ed from Maine for the loan!). All vinyl, recorded to Roland R-05.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I suppose there were a few things on my mind. Because my NTS mixes tend to be quite freeform, and focus on quieter, left-field stuff, this seemed an appropriate opportunity to document the kind of thing I do in the dance floor setting. I've also just passed my ten-year mark in New York, so it seemed a like a good moment to punctuate that in some way.
A good friend took me to The Loft a few times in 2007 and those experiences sealed my decision to leave California for New York. Beyond the historical and musical legacy, the social experience of going to that party a few times every year has been so formative—not as something to imitate, but as a kind of ideal, a compass pointing in a direction.
Ultimately, it's taught me that music is a catalyst for creating a social space. If the music is properly expansive, that sends a distinct message. And the effect of sharing social space with people you may not be likely to interact with in the streets, at your local or on the subway is what makes it such a positive and necessary force.
That said, that element of New York life—the melting pot ideal, which for me has always been incredibly powerful and affirming—is far less prominent here than it once was. Social space is increasingly segregated. Not as alienated as other parts of the country, obviously. But it's indicative of a negative trend. If you think of it, from a capitalist angle, it makes so much sense: it's easiest to sell to specific, divided demographics. You separate people, send a message that 'This is who you are. You're not 'that'.' It's such an easy way to divide people socially, racially, and to exploit that difference, financially and politically. So, by extension, when we get super focused on liking only one style of music and push everything else aside as "not for us," we don't realise we're being played. That this sort of aesthetic myopia—informed by nearly invisible market forces—reflects racial, sexual and class myopia.
So, this mix felt like a nice moment to reflect on how this very New York thing has affected me. There's much less in the way of weird, out stuff or spiritual jazz, the kind of stuff I usually start things off with—things build pretty quick to a certain altitude and ride from there. For no reason whatsoever, it's a bit front-loaded with boogie and minimal disco for the first 30 or so and then goes deep from there.
Though you're known as a multi-instrumentalist, producer and studio engineer, your mixes, like Set The Tone, have achieved cult status. How does "thinking like a DJ" inform your practice?
As a DJ, I'm looking for tracks that feel special, things with innovative production that make me feel a certain way, and I put them on with the hope that they can bring a feeling into a room, or a space. You're also looking to create an arc, to have punctuation. And my favorite kind of DJs are the ones who draw from all over, regardless of genre, and weave their sets into something that works as a whole.
That kind of liberty—of pooling from divergent genres—isn't often granted to a producer. Right now, I'm gravitating toward treating the process of making an album in the same way. Can I successfully compose very different kinds of things, things that certain listeners might see as being "too different" from one another, to create a larger work that isn't simply "pastiche" but that becomes something else? I think it takes a good deal of nuance to pull it off.
What are you up to next?
I'll be spending the first few months of the new year working on a lot of Arp material, some of it with the ensemble, some of it solo, some with an eight-piece Classical Ensemble. There'll be a new, dance-y project under a different name. And a few collaborations I should be able to talk about soon.
As far as records, the next release is "Foreign Affairs," a 7-inch on Emotional Response, which comes out this week. Woo and Felicia Atkinson have done remixes of some tracks from the Fragments of A Season LP I did with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. After a long break, there will be a new Masks EP with my partner Max (Ravitz aka Patricia) on Spring Theory that should appear in early Spring.
I'm also finishing up a score for Brittany Bailey, one of the choreographers I work with regularly. And a few odds and ends have just come out on some compilations—some tracks I did in a supernatural horror/giallo vibe for a Geographic North cassette comp, the ten-year anniversary Mexican Summer comp, and an epic Prins Thomas mix double-LP for Smalltown Supersound.