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Ark: Arkpocalypse (Perlon)

About 10 years ago, Ark was at the forefront of a new wave of ultra-minimal, strangely angular glitchy techno. His records trickled out on tiny French label Brif before he finally hit more of a stride with collaborations on Perlon (with kindred spirit Cabanne) and a string of strong releases on the Circus imprint. Now this year he’s released his 4th full-length on the esteemed Perlon label. For those unfamiliar with Perlon, the label has a knack for oddly bulbous minimal techno that ranges from austere to more playful. It’s been the recent home to old-school acid house gurus Baby Ford and A Guy Called Gerald who’ve long abandoned the sounds that defined the early part of their career, sliding in neatly along the weirder sounds of label heads Pantytec or the almost-goofy hooks of Markus Nikolai.

So how does Ark fit in now? Arkpocalypse is 11 tracks and much like his previous albums, it splits the time between functional dancefloor tracks and more mid-tempo grooves. It’s not as unusual sounding as his previous Perlon full-length Caliente, but it’s also better on the whole. Whereas Caliente had a lot of cut-up hip hop references and abrasive synth sounds, most of Arkpocalypse is incredibly smooth. However, Ark mainman Guillaume has brought on a whole posse of vocalists this time, with over half the album cuts having guest vocalists. This occurs to varying degrees of success, but I say this with some bias as I typically prefer the instrumental tracks on more varied releases like this. I appreciate Berroyer taking chances over the course of his albums, though, and I will say even though I dislike a few of these tracks, it’s clear that he’s striving to bridge the gap between “tech” and “house” even more than before. Still, I can’t quite catch the groove of “Biscouit” or the oddball schaffelbeat of “Old Chariot”… they just fall flat for me. But that said, there are a few really bad-ass dancefloor tracks here to pick up the slack. Look no further than “Obamark,” “Rising” or “Gaz” for oddly fragmented yet somehow smooth techy house… but the pièce de resistance is “Deep At All,” a collaboration with Dolibox that is an extended deep house excursion (but still Ark-style).

Watch/listen: Ark feat. Dolibox: “Deep At All”