It's surprisingly rare to find artists who can successfully amalgamate the fluidity of live instrumentation with the rhythmic drive of dance music without coming across as gimmicky, but on "Subway Gothic," New York trio Archie Pelago—consisting of cellist Greg Heffernan, saxophonist Zach Koeber and trumpet player/DJ Dan Hirshorn—hits the nail on the head. Key to the track's success is the fact that, despite all the group's esoteric, genre-hopping charm, Archie Pelago always keeps one foot firmly grounded in the foundation of solid, club-ready dance music. Whilst the careful arrangement of jazz horns and classical strings might be the track's headline feature, it's the propulsive garage hats and rolling house bassline that make "Subway Gothic" so infectious.
The outfit has an undoubtable flair for arrangement too; throughout the a-side, the band uses its horns like drawn-out synth pads to underline the emotional emphasis of the minor-key piano riff that makes up the track's backbone. The improvisational saxophone licks that fade in and out manage to interact with—and complement—the synth lines, rather than coming off as unnecessary embellishments. Meanwhile, the dissonant cello-led breakdown—which comes across like a brief club take on Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring"—is a stroke of pure genius.
On b-side "Ladymarkers," the trio takes a slightly more laidback approach, resulting in a track that's enjoyable enough but nowhere near as exciting as its counterpart. Here, the band trades in the tight house rhythms for a free-flowing kick-and-snare beat and a meandering fretless bassline—and steps dangerously close to the realm of lounge jazz as a result. Still, despite the drop in energy on the b-side, there's more than enough evidence across the course of this 12" to justify the excitement surrounding this trio of talented artists.