Meet Mr. and Mrs. Arafna – or Karl Tochweller and Isabelle Montess. They’re an enigmatic couple who wear their strangeness as if it was a fashionable accessory. Together, they create a form of minimalistic power electronics that they’ve dubbed as ‘angstpop’, and indeed, it’s a fitting term, as Haus Arafna often remind me of what Kraftwerk would sound like if they decided to slap on some corpse paint and go all black metal on their brand of synth-pop.
Speaking of fashion accessories, a fashion designer named Katie Gallagher had actually asked Haus Arafna if they could compose music for her fashion show. I’m going to assume that this was one of the more random and awkward things that the group could have faced, but nevertheless, ‘New York Rhapsody’ was created, and premiered at the show in 2009. It only ended up being released this year because Haus Arafna felt that the album deviated from their usual abrasive sound, and they didn’t want to release it before they released their 2010 album, ‘You’.
Now let’s explore the album: as mentioned, the group has slightly deviated from their usual sound, and have become a little more accessible, though that point is rather moot, as even this album is about as accessible as Area 51. I find the compositional aspects on a lot of the songs interesting, as instead of concentrating on some sort of predictable melodic progression, the music is rather atonal, with each musical ‘note’ being a sound wave in its most primitive form, being modulated and manipulated to create a sound that’s ugly, yet musically pleasing. It’s a confusing affair, to say the least, but one I can totally appreciate. The atmosphere is raw and ominous; it sounds like the music was recorded in a cell in a mental hospital, one which disregards the welfare of all of their patients who are left to urinate all over the walls, screaming until they pass out. The majority of the tracks focus on droning electronics, antiquated synth drums and various other electronic layers which wash in and out of each track, as well as cold and disconnected vocals from both Mr. and Mrs. Arafna. Overall, the sound is warm, comforting and relaxing, yet absolutely insane. To sum it up, ‘New York Rhapsody’ is an album that describes the sound of a meth-induced psychotic mind.
An endearing experience, Haus Arafna further exploit your psyche and steadily unmake you with this release.