pinkcourtesyphone - Description of Problem [Line - 2014]
This CD, like every other Line CD I’ve seen, comes inserted into a stylish, sombrely designed card wallet. It has six tracks and a somewhat stellar line-up of guests. Each track, bar one, contains significant material from one of these guests; this means contributions from: William Basinski, AGF, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Kid Congo Powers, and Evelina Domnitch. These contributions all take the form of vocals - though Basinski is credited with ‘voicemail’ - with some guests adding other elements too.
Description of Problem/More Everything, the first track, does indeed feature Basinski’s voicemail. The 16 minute long piece has a dreamy atmosphere to it, with pretty loops and underlying ominous drones. The overall tone is perhaps summarised as expansive - slow-moving clouds in a huge sky. This contrasts effectively with the tiny, personal focus of the voicemail recording itself - as well as the sampled voice of Lana Turner (I assume), from the film Imitation of Life. The second track, Perfunctory Attachments, is the only one without a credited guest, and it’s eerie - very eerie. Beginning with a woman’s voice, speaking a language I don’t understand, it soon becomes an unsettling, tense piece of work. Whilst the background of this is provided by a rotted, spectral loop, the foreground is held in tension by the ‘non-linguistic’ sounds of a woman’s speech: the short intake of breath before an utterance, the sound of an aborted word - the very debris of speech. These small sounds anchor the spaces between perfectly. Our Story, featuring vocals and processing from AGF, is the shortest track on the album, and also the most overtly rhythmic piece. It burbles along on a bouncing rhythm and melody, not too dissimilar to the sound often used for the laboratory equipment of mad scientists in cartoons.
The next track, Boundlessly (for M. Heyer), which weighs in at 18:37 minutes, features the spoken words of Cosey Fanni Tutti. I won’t ruin the story she tells, but I couldn’t help but make the cheap link back to Throbbing Gristle - I haven’t heard any of the more recent efforts from the various TG-related projects, but I would hope they sound like this in their quieter moments. It’s motorik, in a stealthy way, and beset with glitches and creeping details. The words and sounds come together to conjure an icy atmosphere, despite the overall warmth of the sounds themselves. iamaphotograph (darkroomversion), the penultimate track, comes with vocals, and a guitar sample, from Kid Congo Powers. This might be the most aggressively dark work on the album, with an atmosphere that almost ventures into a dank cellar. Bizarrely, it actually makes me think of an incredibly abstracted piece of power electronics, and indeed, at points Powers’ vocals are mangled in a manner appropriate to that genre. The whole thing is really quite murky and dirtied - in the best way. The final track, featuring the voice of Evelina Domnitch, is titled I Wish You Goodbye. With its swirling strings-esque drones, and lush, faded grandeur, it’s the obvious choice for the album closer.
This is another great piece of work from Mr. Chartier; it’s much less ‘focussed’ than other releases I’ve heard from him - due to the guest contributions - but still very coherent and rounded. Despite the obvious colour that the various guests bring, the austerity that I often associate with Chartier’s works still lurks beneath. It isn’t, perhaps, what I would normally expect to hear from him, but that makes it all the better. Fans of Chartier will want to hear this, but fans of the guests should do so too.
(Can I recommend you all download and donate, here: https://richardchartier.bandcamp.com/track/under-chandeliers, for a pinkcourtesyphone track dedicated to the victims of all violence against LGBTQ people. The piece was released in the wake of the tragic events at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. All profits go to Pulse Tragedy Community Fund.)Martin P