John Chantler – Which Way to Leave?

Posted: 21 August 2016 in Albums
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Room40 – RM463 – 26th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

‘The self-reflexive sequencing that tracks the sub-harmonic series in the opening blast of ‘Falling Forward’ positions the record as Chantler’s most explicitly melodic. These melodies however do not exist in a mono-dimensional vacuum, rather they co-exist in a meshed framework of dynamic timbral layers… The record’s abrupt cuts, deft variations of density and unexpected diversions are happily explored with headlong dives into ravishing texture and extended stretches of surface stasis. The music draws on a domestic reimagining of the traditions of studio based electronic music/musique concrete and 20th century minimalism and delivers this with brash revitalized energy.’ So explains the blurb which accompanies the release. Not being acquainted with Chantler’s extensive back-catalogue, I must assume that when it comes to being ‘explicitly melodic’, these things are indeed relative.

That isn’t to say that the material on Which Way to Leave? is a mess of atonal, non-melodic noise: far from it. However, this is not an album of dainty tunes, but a work which explores sound in terms of texture and tonality and the relationships between the two.

‘Falling Forward’ does indeed commence the album with a veritable sonic assault. The volume of the piece is a necessary element, in that the tonal richness comes from the relationship between sounds as they resonate against one another. But this is an album of contrasts. The minuscule bleeps of ‘Clearing’ and the ringing hum and dank atmospherics of ‘Fixation Pulse’ rise and fall and chop and change in volume and pitch unexpectedly. At times almost silent, low downtuned tones growl and bark monstrously, contrasting with delicate chimes and sparkling flickers of light like crystals. While the majority of the pieces are short, almost fragmentary, the ten-minute ‘First December’ builds a cumulative effect by sustaining a steady multitonal drone which envelops the listener. This rippling wall is heavy with texture and rent with extraneous incidental sounds.

It may not be explicitly melodic in conventional terms, but it is an album which is sonically engaging and eminently listenable.


John Chantler - Which Way to Leave

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