The Arcs: Electrophonic Chronic review – emotional healing

Mothballed since their debut album, Yours, Dreamily, in 2015, the Arcs have a famous member – Dan Auerbach – with a busy schedule as a producer, label boss and the Black Keys. Likewise, keys man Leon Michels is a Dap-King, label-runner and, as El Michels Affair, will release a collaboration with rapper Black Thought in April.

The real reason for the gap between Arcs outings, though, has been the loss of bandmate Richard Swift, who died in 2018 as a result of complications arising from alcoholism. Electrophonic Chronic marks a winnowing down of the plentiful recordings the Arcs made between the release of Yours, Dreamily and Swift’s death. After initially “not being able to face” the music, they finished the album in his memory. That’s Swift counting everyone in on River, a keyboard-heavy blues vamp.

So while this endeavour can’t help but be tinged with deep bittersweetness, Electronic Chronic really exudes the warmth of a band tinkering about in their studio. Unlike with the more upbeat Black Keys, the emphasis here isn’t on good-time tunes. Although Backstage Mess is a downright breezy, sub-two-minute bagatelle, even a song called Sunshine has some unrequited yearning in it. The easy, rolling beats of Keep on Dreamin’ soon give way to Heaven Is a Place, where the organ and keening electric guitar positively invite displays of emotion.