Arigto has a love for classic cinema, as displayed by their photographic cover tributes to Ingmar Bergman. Pretense arrives on the heels of spring’s Persona, and shares a similar aesthetic. But Arigto is not a classic music duo. As evidenced in their video for “Tragedy to come,” they also have a flair for the the modern, the dramatic and the abstract. Should they ever rescore a Bergman film, we suspect the vibe will be extremely altered.
Remixers as varied as Tilman Robinson, Christine Ott and Rabit have worked on Arigto projects, exposing the difficulty of choosing a genre tag. Their music is experimental, with strong flavors of dark ambience, modern composition and electronics. The timbres of Pretense evolve over the course of the album. The most effective use of the music may be as the backdrop to a suspense or horror novel, the music conveying the lurking danger, the hidden trap.
That opening track ~ “Tragedy to Come” (small c in the video, large C on the album) ~ unfolds in a visual swirl of black and white with intense swirls of blue, violet and magenta. Clanks and cries abound as fragments of cello and violin find their seats. Then electronic blasts melded to piano, reminiscent of the early Ben Frost. A battle is unfolding: between genres, between antagonists, between facets of the mind. The music stops to recalibrate, giving the piano and percussion the opportunity to separate themselves and glare at each other from opposite ends of the room.
Sustained chords and slow modulations underline the tension of the album’s opening half. Sinister titles abound: “No Presence, Silent Fear,” “Misapprehension,” “Threat That Lies In Despair.” One is almost ready to pigeonhole the set as drone noir; then the room begins to shift. The midsection of “Threat” is pensive, nearly reflective, kidnapped by dark percussion and a series of closing blasts. Immediately after “Agony,” cracks of light begin to appear, as if digging themselves out from the abyss. Choral tones imply spiritual struggle and a soft angelic presence. Instead of dragging the emotions down, the strings begin to lift the soul. “Pretend to Breakaway” really does break away, freeing itself from the clutches of despair, although not without cost. He shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
In “The Defiant Cry,” silence becomes a factor: a pregnant pause during which a tide may turn, a thought may change, a goal may coalesce. The final piece, in title and timbre, hints at happiness without providing a happy ending: the mark of many independent films, realistic, but merciful. (Richard Allen)