Review Summary: It's a lot like Dippin' Dots.
You've had Dippin' Dots, right? You know, the tiny ice cream pellets that they sell at ball parks and zoos. The ice cream is nice, bringing a decent ice cream taste to a form where it really doesn't make a mess or melt. Either way, the marketing touts the little confectionery spheres as the “Ice Cream of the Future.” Pardon my french, but this is absolute bull***; who in their right mind is going to never eat ice cream again because they could get Dippin' Dots? Sure, Dippin' Dots are fun and, at the very least, interesting. Now, one may ask, “Why is this idiot going on about a semi-popular brand of frozen treat that no one really cares about?” As a rebuttal, it could be argued that the situation with Arcadea's self-titled record is in a similar boat.
In fact, Arcadea's gimmick, which is worn on its sleeve and waggled at the listener for over 30 minutes, is a somewhat dated depiction of the future, where everything is made of chrome and robots rule all. The atmosphere this record builds practically bleeds cheese. Rather than using guitar and bass, the group implements grandiose walls of science-fiction inspired synths. Accompanying these goofy walls of noise are Cynic-esque uses of vocoders and cleans and lively and technical drumming from Mastodon's Brann Dailer. Despite admissions of silliness, much of the proggy compositions showcased here are fun and bizarrely enamoring. After all, when the already jarring combinations mentioned earlier are executed in a bouncy and groovy manner, it becomes tantalizing and mesmerizing, just like the bright and mouth-watering colors of a bowl of Dippin' Dots. Both are tasty and vibrant, with plenty of fun to be found.
Alas, neither have any significant depth or importance. Bands such as Brain Tentacles or Green Jelly show us that a gimmick, no matter how clever, can only go so far. The gimmick here never seems to wear thin, but it does leave some questions behind. Once it’s stripped back of its fun effects and vocoders, what is really left? Or rather, is there anything significant to this piece of art? Not that every album has to make some grand statement or be a two hour long epic about the artist's greatest fears, but this just feels a bit shallow. After all, what here could one not get from similar artists, such as Traced In Air
era Cynic, Mastodon, and The Mars Volta? While these answers are as plain to see as a flashlight in the dark, does this really effect the enjoyment of a short, but undeniably tight, showcase of some progressive space jams? I wouldn't say it detracts too much.
In this way, it is not a gourmet Häagen-Dazs ice cream, full of complex nuances and truffles, nor is it bowl of chunky gas station ice cream, which was made sloppily and without care. It is far from a plain bowl of Neapolitan or Rocky Road. No, if one was to compare Arcadea
to any form of ice cream, you know damn well what it would be. It's vapid, devoid of true nutritional value, and sure as hell not going to be the “future” of anything. Despite that, it's fun and delectable, just like a serving of Dippin' Dots…