The French Method

The Royal Arctic Institute

British Empire Records, 2017

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


While there's no shortage of bands playing genre defying sounds out of New York City, few are probably as acutely charming as the trio of The Royal Arctic Institute. On this instrumental assembly, the three guys at the helm play an unclassifiable form of post-punk meets jazz meets post-everything on this debut album that's only available physically as a cassette (comes with a download code).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Let's get one thing straight though; even though this is a debut album, the players involved have half a century experience combined. Members of Phantom Booth, The Summer Wardrobe, and Das Damen, among others, make up the trio, and it's immediately clear there's much skill present.

Album opener “Do The Kuchar” starts out louder and fuller than I had expected, as the tune moves like a modern day indie-rocker with warm melodies and strong guitar work. “Latonya Ripford” follows and takes a turn into minimalism, where sparse guitars and hushed percussion make this a languid and hypnotic five minutes that picks up the pace near the end.

It's apparent quite quickly that the band don't stay in one place too long, as songs like the brief , shimmering rock of “Japanese Viperina” stray from the rest of the pack, while mysterious slow burners like “Who Put Bela In The Wych Elm” add yet another dimension to the listen.

Deeper cuts like the title track “The French Method” get shiny and airy, while others like “Maystadt Process” sit closer to introspective lounge music. TRAI get most upbeat on the quirky, fun “Barack's Mic Drop,” and most percussive on the lush seven minutes of “Ludic Lovers,” both of which alone are worth the price of admission.

With only three members involved, the sonically challenging sounds here are often extremely large, offering a cinematic quality to extremely sophisticated instrumentation. There's a growing number of must-hear instrumental outfits evolving currently, perhaps mostly notably The Messthetics (Fugazi's rhythm section), and The Royal Arctic Institute should be at the top of everyone's list, too.

Rating: B+

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