John Chantler – Even Clean Hands Damage the Work (Room 40)

Some albums are seemingly wrestled into shape. The effort required to prevent ‘Even Clean Hands Damage the Work’ breaking its bounds and melting the studio must surely have been strenuous. It feels caged, raging voltage testing the boundaries of its prison, the modular synth eager to escape.

Constructed around five movements separated into two side-long suites, it begins with ‘November Parts 1 + 2/Dismantled Cabaret.’ Thick with congealed roaring buzz, shimmering in a heat-haze, frequent sharp swipes across the sound-field appear and vanish like a low-passing helicopter; a constant thrumming, air and ears full of rumbling tactile sound. It becomes more scattered as it progresses, still loud and static-packed but relenting, peaks and troughs surfed with emotive aplomb: sombrely cooling circuits, dying electronics sparking surreal dialogues with other broken appliances, a scraping scree of bellowing machine noise, crusted tentacles of sound-data curling in fierce heat.  Blown ashes conveyed in softly gliding glissandi.  Machines in oppositional dialogue with themselves, a fever dream of process diverted from straight lines of cooperation into wonderful self-destruction.

The second side ‘Wollmar Rogan/The Knight Firth’ commences with a sustained drone, a pew clearing organ-dawn, a long rumbling yawn.  Tangential clank and insect-like chitter intrudes on the humming stasis; the drone recedes like the sun finally falling over the horizon to be replaced with insect night-chatter and the fluttering of aquatic synthetic gills.

‘Even Clean Hands Damage the Work’ is pyrrhic and hypnotically captivating music; a moment-to-moment drama.  Close concentration is rewarded with a world of sound, wires enmeshing the mind, burying it in hooting bird-like barely controlled chaos.

Get the album here.


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