Ark, the duo of Ian Boddy and Mark Shreeve, rarely play live together, and thus their appearance at the Hampshire Jam III festival was keenly anticipated by fans. Their performance was highly feted, and captured for posterity in its full magnificence on Arcturus, the pair's fourth album. On-stage for just over 60 minutes, the set and album was divided into three numbers - "Arcturus, Pt. 1" and "Arcturus, Pt. 2," and the encore "Helicon". All three begin in a similar fashion with dark atmospheres and bubbling synths, which slowly coalesce and evolve into quite amazing, expansive pieces. "Pt. 1" initially evoked to this reviewer Island era Jade Warrior, with its dramatic atmospheres, gradually shifting moods, haunting synth melody, and chirping bird, its pastel shades delicately painting the breaking dawn. Eventually, though, a percolating rhythm takes hold, and the piece slides into glorious, incandescent trance. "Pt. 2" follows a similar traction, but this time in a far eerier, wind-swept mode, as elegant organ passages come to the fore, a rhythm strikes up, and the piece metamorphoses into trance. The melody lines surge towards the blues, then across brighter variations, while all the while spacy effects spin around and wind gusts across the piece. The music grows, the rhythm becomes more driving, but even at its most intense, the entire number remains surprisingly light on its feet. In contrast, "Helicon" feels more freeform. It opens amidst blustery winds, a regal organ melody quickly enters, eventually replaced by a far more delicate synth melody. Boingy space effects ping round the piece, the elegant organ sashays back onto center stage, while the synth bubbles around it. Over eight minutes pass before a rhythm takes hold, as the synths create their own tempos, and the organ swoops majestically overhead. Even in its loosest form, the music is tightly interwoven, a lavish aural tapestry, whose myriad threads tempt the listener to follow, even as the larger sonic picture begins to emerge. New passages, sounds, and rhythms constantly demand attention, keeping one alert to the nuances of the music, while simultaneously cocking an ear to the broader sweeps. It's a fascinating journey, that even at an hour, is over far too soon.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene