By Shannon Nico Shreibak
Between the hands that hold pleasure and pain with equal tenderness—that is where the sound of Rows Arc lives. That knack for unearthing beauty from life’s polarities is what propels the trio’s debut, High On The Tide.
Growing up with a radio DJ father and his collection of thousands of records, a foray into music would have been practically a birthright for Sarah Olmsted. But crippling stage fright and stints in other artistic disciplines (sculpture, furniture building, museum exhibit design) would quell Olmsted’s voice. Until now. After years spent writing and recording sparse dream pop melodies in solitude, the sonic skeletons in Olmsted’s closet grew too loud to be ignored. Ready to bring flesh to her musical fantasies, Olmsted turned to friend and collaborator Jason Gagovski (Sweet Cobra) to add heft to the Laurel Canyon slink of her demos, whether that meant lending a flouncing guitar riff or pounding through Low-leaning snare fills.
High On The Tide’s eleven tracks are not unlike a long drive down a dark road—the universe that lies ahead unwraps itself one breathless moment at a time. Recorded and mixed by Allen Epley and Eric Abert of The Life and Times, the open wounds prodded by Olmsted’s forthright lyrics are salved with the duo’s aural latticework. Guitarist and bassist Neeraj Kane (Hope Conspiracy, Suicide File) serves as the capstone to the trio that now sums Rows Arc, an addition that arose from Olmsted’s zest for collaboration and reverence for the blunt sincerity of punk and hardcore.
Chronicling Olmsted’s journey toward contentedness in both art and life, High On The Tide’s eleven tracks are mined from a place that we’ve all inhabited—we just call it by different names. The album’s psych-folk title track introduces Olmsted’s captivating alto, its crystalline timbre flecked with pops and hisses reminiscent of an unhinged Cat Power. The song’s hypnotic refrain “Oh, you gotta leave and go” summons a quiet bravery that persists throughout the album, a smoldering grit that envelopes album midpoint “Hard Lights” and the folksy hard charger “Onto Something.”
An unnamed contributor to High On The Tide is Olmsted’s home base of Los Angeles, whose inspiration is undeniable in the buoying keys threaded through “Waiting” and the jam econo sparseness of “River,” a thorny aria primed for the stage as much as a sun-bleached pier. Colored by both time and place, High On The Tide is a triumph of world building, where syllables are stretched into symphonies and melodies are stronger than man.
The album’s emotional candor reaches its peak with “Problem Soldier,” a track that is cinematic in scope thanks to Gagovski’s percussive drive. Album closer “Away Away” finds Olmsted’s vocals slowly slipping beneath the tide they seemed to spring from, leaving the listener lost in a sea of their own making—just as Olmsted was so many years ago.