Chapter - Two - (the Biographer) [Saiko Records - 2007]Two is, as the title would indicate, the second album by Chapter, a duo consisting of Swiss artists Alexander J.S. Craker and Thierry van Osselt. The album's subtitle (the biographer) refers to the unifying concept of the work; an elegantly presented lyric book presents a short biography, for which each track is named. For instance, the first track is named Baron B.M. Craker (1946-2003). Each biography refers to lyrics or poems found or provided by family members or significant others. Chapter sets each of these lyrics or poems to music. It is only upon careful examination of the album credits that you realise you've been had, most of the time. It says "All biographies are fictional; any resemblance to persons living or dead, are purely coincidental (except for Baron B.M. Craker, which is based on true facts)". It's an intriguing idea, and a pretty clever prank.
Even better is the fact that the album doesn't suffer from being mired down conceptually. The music holds up well on its own. It's artfully assembled, yet accessible rock music with folk and electronic underpinnings. I must admit that the vocals threw me for a bit of a loop at first; I tend to cringe at any resemblance to "modern rock" or "emo" vocalizing of any sort under normal circumstances. Alex Craker's vocals avoid the cloying overly dramatic trappings usually associated with the aforementioned genres, while veering close to them.
What really redeems this album is the quality of the songs, which are carefully written and varied enough to keep interest. The arrangements are mostly quiet, with fine guitar playing, orchestral (maybe fake, but still impressive) backgrounds, and simple drums. The songs consist of everything from gentle folk to repetitive, driving and hypnotic pop. Though Chapter have obviously spent a considerable amount of time and effort crafting Two, the album has a casual feel which is quite welcoming. The black, gothic lettered cover art, and weighty (if humorous) concept is somewhat misleading; the music is almost disarmingly unassuming and devoid of pretension. It's a difficult balance which Chapter seem well on their way to mastering. Erwin Michelfelder