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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Ara Pacis - To the Westcoast / My Fate 7" [The Artless Cuckoo - 2019]

Founded in 1971, German rock group Ara Pacis released one LP in 1979, To the Westcoast. Playing intriguing AOR in a time when New Wave, Synth Pop, and Punk were dominating the scenes in Germany, Ara Pacis managed to get a foothold in the public's ear, and their fairly limited, self-released LP became quite a collector's item. Bolstered by a very well received live act, Ara Pacis remained in the fans' memories despite breaking up in 1982, and reformed for two revival concerts in 1990 and 2002. The Artless Cuckoo has re-released the title track from this LP, along with "My Fate" on the B-side, in a 350 ltd 7" EP. And, on top of this, the digital EP contains another album track, "Let's Keep On Going," along with four bonus tracks from their 1981 studio sessions. A real gem for fans of Ara Pacis and German Westcoast Rock, The Artless Cuckoo's presentation of these sought after songs is a delightful treat for the Summer season.

Opening with sun drenched, California guitar licks, "To the Westcoast" channels earlier, West Coast vibes but with a bit more serious bent. With taking on a more somber tonality than the likes of America, The Byrds, or CSN, the thickness of "To the Westcoast" stands out in stark contrast to its forebears. This adds a more wistful, reminiscent tone instead of the bright, "California Dreaming" associated with the first wave of American West Coast rock. Even while the guitar solo turns on the sun and reaches for the sky, the base keeps this song grounded and somewhat shrouded in smoggy air. Similar to the A Side, the B Side, "My Fate," is comfortably thick, and distanced from the sunny, folky tones of the past. A bit more up beat and propulsive, "My Fate" not only has a guitar solo, but also makes time for a fun drum excursion. It's touches like these that add to Ara Pacis' charm, and makes the strange, "Germans longing for good ol' California sun" sound work. They take something older and fairly tiresome, turn it in a slightly different direction, and make it completely their own. This 7" is a delightful spin.

Continuing with the bonuses for the digital EP, "Let's Keep Going On" from the Westcoast LP removes the longing for the West Coast and focuses on lush, twin guitar rock. Almost yachty, and oddly danceable, Ara Pacis pulls out all the stops with more instruments and near proggy arrangements. They manage to make the mind-boggling combo of yacht/prog work, and it shows how the legacy of Ara Pacis endured despite being such a small blip on the radar. The three tracks that have been mentioned appear as "revisited" tracks from the 1981 studio session. For the most part, they're not too far off from the originals, but there's a brighter element to them, and the addition of synthesizers and piano adds interesting new dimensions. These newer recordings have less thickness to them, and it isn't a bad thing. Elements shine a bit more and Ara Pacis can further show their chops. It would be hard to pick which version is better, as they're wonderful complements to each other. Thank you to The Artless Cuckoo for giving the fans both. Also from the 1981 sesson and exclusive to the digital EP, "I Don't Know" shows the brighter, more open direction in which Ara Pacis was headed prior to their break up. Shrugging off the prog links and just going full yacht, this enjoyable song packs in the smiles for its entire run time.

A footnote in German rock history, Ara Pacis managed to survive the decades since their inception despite having only one, limited, self-released LP. Proof that great music speaks for itself, their legacy lived on, and thanks to The Artful Cuckoo, fans can now own a small piece of a hard to find work. Not only that, but their efforts to provide a great release have proven fruitful with the addition of an unreleased studio session that further adds to Ara Pacis' reputation as musicians.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Paul Casey
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