Having carved out a career in the industry behind the desk, recording and producing albums for Last Kinection and a little known hip hop outfit Hilltop Hoods, Gareth Hudson decided to get out from behind the desk and start recording his own compositions. Enlisting the help of Newcastle three piece string ensemble, Ensemble Arc, Hudson has found the vehicle to make his complex arrangements come to life. In an Ocean of Sacrifice is a wonderful display of musicianship, from writing, performance, arrangement, and production.
The album can be best categorized as Melancholy Pop. The string arrangements add the sense of sadness and reflection to songs that, played any other way, would be seen as indie folk/pop. Hudson has a voice that is strangely familiar, yet I can't quite pin down a direct similarity. His use of quirky loops, especially in more upbeat tracks such as in "Happy Happy Joy Joy" (old Ren & Stimpy reference, perhaps!?) and the lighter moments in the album give a good balance to the more sombre tracks. To use a clique term, 'light and shade' really does apply to Hudson Arc's music. "1000 Hearts" carries a longing emotion. "Somewhere, Somehow, Someday" is more mechanical and stark, with the use of auto tuned vocals and piano loops - it's darker and feels more sinister, especially compared to rock flavourings of "Crazy About The End", which could easily end up on any radio rotation.
Each track has its own personality that you pick up on with more listens. "The Woman Next Door" is a heavy track underlined by didgeridoo and power chords. "London Town" sounds like a train chugging along a suburban rail line, while final track "Live Your Fantasy" is an indie pop/rock gem that rounds out a great debut record. The quality in the songs need to be appreciated when four talented musicians work together under the guidance of its chief songwriter to produce a record this good.
Review Score 9/10