Album Review: Temporal Arc by John Koch-Northrup

Album cover: Temporal Arc by John Koch-Northrup

John Koch-Northrup has re-released his album Temporal Arc on his own Relaxed Machinery label (rM_0002). Originally released in 2001 under his Interstitial alter ego on the Red Antenna label, the album finally comes home under John’s own name, heralding the end of a recording hiatus which began in 2004.

The 15-minute opening track, Frozen, contains the album’s ethos in a nutshell, with its strongly chugging and thumping groove. With coldly shimmering tones, John quickly builds a pulsing atmosphere on this rock-solid foundation. This is organic, ambient techno – this is the sound of relaxed machinery, nearly ten years before its namesake label came into existence. Belying the piece’s title, the groove never stays the same for long, the synths swinging right along with it. True, the synth sounds are cold enough to warrant the title, but shake this ice enough and it must eventually break down.

The album is chock-full of industrial, metallic atmospheres, particularly on Marco Polo, which featured one of my favorite moments: a clutch of shimmering, luminous tones near the end which left us far too soon – I really loved that sound. This piece sang of a journey of adventure about to begin, the lure of new, strange lands. The rolling, racing piano interlude was a surprise treat.

Marco Polo by John Koch-Northrup

Other highlights for these ears: Bones of the Dead begins with a splendid, swelling, glassy, ring-modulated thrum. This piece’s tones continually rise and fall, like memories of lost ones flashing through the mind. Gnosio is another series of rising and falling textured drones, portending something hitherto unknown. Refraction features a growling bass and shimmering, backlit synth chords under a slowish electronic groove.

Refraction by John Koch-Northrup

The title track, the album’s longest, closes with another industrial environment, with glitches firing off every few seconds, then basses sliding by just as often. A marching rhythm ensues, very minimal with just a drone and a chugging sequence. A snappy drumbeat spices up the groove, but the piece’s tectonic drones still aptly suggest the inexorable, slow march of geological time.

Temporal Arc covers a good range of organic and techno ground, effectively using a small number of elements. It’s available in MP3 and FLAC downloads (from CD Baby and AD21 Music, respectively) as well as CDR (from Hypnos). Recommended!


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