Pinkcourtesyphone - A Ravishment Of Mirrors [Dragons Eye Recordings - 2014]
I’ve reviewed a few Richard Chartier releases, but this is the first one I’ve heard under his Pinkcourtesyphone moniker. Indeed, I actually initially mistook the album for a Line release, given the artwork/wallet packaging. “A Ravishment Of Mirrors” has four tracks in all, with two short (in this context) pieces bookended by two longer works. Although, there are clear resonances between the Richard Chartier and Pinkcourtesyphone sound worlds, straight away you can hear a different tone at work. Where “Richard Chartier” is rigorous and academic, in the best sense; Pinkcourtesyphone is much more welcoming. Both are possessed by a glacial chill, but where the former is somewhat hard-edged (not a criticism at all, mind), the second operates in a much more haunting, melancholy manner. My brain conjures up an image of the academic going to sleep in a very sleek, modern, soulless hotel. There’s a mournful emptiness to the album, a sad beauty: beauty despite everything. The first and longest track, “Why Pretend/The Desire of Absence/Faulty Connections” is pushed along by a deathly slow, reverberating synth chorale; whose two-note call crawls the sterile corridors of our imaginary hotel, echoing around each corner. The track builds with the aid of a blunted drum machine, which lurches along in a dulled motorik; the ghosts of our building amassing around it. These reverberating rhythms continue in the second piece, as do the drifting synths; but here, the lines mass and tangle into a more sinister drone. The third piece, “Falling Star (for P. Entwistle), is the shortest and most colourful of the four. Founded on stumbling loops, it sees Chartier introducing piano-like “trills” over a shifting background; its probably also the prettiest track, but still inflected with a gloom.
The fourth and final track ploughs a similar furrow to those I’ve described above and looking at these words, it might seem that “A Ravishment Of Mirrors” is repetitive and monochrome; but its far from that. It does utilise a concentrated palette, certainly; but this serves to give the album a consistent and coherent sound and tone. The palette is sprinkled with enough colour to keep it busy and vibrant, but these elements are used sparingly and judiciously; as a result of which, the empty melancholy at the heart of the album remains unweakened. Interestingly, the most striking (for me, at least) of these elements was the use of vocal samples; cropping up briefly in each track. This is a far cry from the “Richard Chartier” work I’ve previously heard. Following that thought, I feel that you could convincingly and agreeably play this to people as an “ambient” album - whereas a “Richard Chartier” album might be taken as something alien and oppressive in the room. But, like all his work, it is imbued with careful construction and attention to detail and, like all his work, demands a listen. This is a very quietly good album, which fixates and meditates on the atmospheres found in Burial’s sounds. I’m sure you don’t need any greater persuasion than that.Martin P