Welcome back to a segment that I like to call What Has Colin Marston Been Up To, where we profile the latest and greatest in what Colin Marston has been up to. Jokes aside, it’s easy to see why he’s the hardest working man in the game right now. Just buy any album that he’s been a part of on Bandcamp and every first Friday of the month you’ll see just how much music he’s released and continues to release. One of the projects that had me the most excited when it debuted was Arelseum, and the final piece of their trilogy Arelseum III finishes what they started in a meaningful way while paving the way towards the future.
Arelseum began its life just as most other things in the world were crumbling to a halt. Especially in its early stages, the pandemic fostered (and continues to foster) an inherent need for collaboration and creative outlet, but also a not-so-insignificant need to keep businesses open and functioning; businesses such as Menegroth, the Thousand Caves, the legendary studio owned and operated by Colin Marston out of Queens, New York. It was in this perfect storm of necessity and inspiration that Marston teamed up with acquaintance of the scene Ryan Lipynsky to form Arelseum, a project inspired equally by dungeon synth and 70’s and 80’s slasher film soundtracks. Lipynsky says of the inspiration for the project, “The concepts at play are the ideas that go through your head when you are between being barely awake and asleep. Inspiration through exhaustion. The ideas reveal themselves in a unique way that only makes sense when it is complete. This band is about instinctual creativity and the art form of collaboration.” Once Lipynsky gets the ideas for the songs fleshed out, they go to Marston for more production and bonus instrumentation. “Ryan starts all the songs and sends me the multitrack with the title. I overdub keys and drums, then edit, arrange and mix. So it’s almost like he’s the singer-songwriter who hands the nice, simple and effective song over to the producer, and I just over-produce the fuck out of it and accidentally make it LESS commercial,” says Marston of his role. The end result is something truly cinematic and engrossing, like the soundtrack to a movie that hasn’t been made yet (to borrow a phrase from our excellent interview with another synth-horror visionary James “Perturbator” Kent).
Arelseum III rounds out a trilogy of synth albums released by the band, if you can believe it, all of which deal with musical themes of tension and tranquility. Arelseum III in particular leans pretty heavily on the tranquility aspect, I feel. The album is a long 70+ minutes, but each song is given just the right amount of time to grow and develop an atmosphere that sucks you into a story. Nothing is forced, nothing is rushed, every tone and sample feels expertly timed and crafted. Opener “Owl” begins life with choral washes and an eerie vintage lead line slowly building and evolving with Marston’s drums and percussion winding in and out of the ambiance. There is something truly engrossing and entrancing about the way the vintage sounds carry you to another place and time, something that is really hard to put my finger on what exactly, but whatever they do, they don’t hide behind vintage as a gimmick. It’s all completely organic and honest, and that helps drive immersion. Where “Owl” could be the soundtrack to a slasher film, “Woods” reminds me of background music on Twin Peaks and closer “Meteor” could be used in a grim show like “Hannibal.” It’s all very impressive work, and the balance between ominous tones and soothing washes is perfectly struck. “Below” has just the right touch of calming chimes and melodic washes to reset the brain before more tension works its way in. The attention to detail on Arelseum III cannot be overstated. The way every little piece plays with every other one is what makes this such an entertaining listen and shows that Marston and Lipynsky are at the top of this game as well.
Arelseum III is an exercise in the power of collaboration and perseverance. For all that the pandemic has taken away from us, the one good thing that it brought is a better understanding of the need for companionship and creative release, especially if you were already working in a creative field. Arelseum is another in a long line of creative collaborations that have sprung up in the past year and a half, a significant number of which also feature Marston, but Arelseum are set apart by how the expertly execute a singular vision, even when that vision comes from the twilight between sleep and waking.