the developing process: chrissie caulfield on chaines

September 20, 2016 at 9:56 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Chaines – OST (poster package plus download, Slip, [SLP017])


My last review, of Furchick’s Trouble with a Capital T, mentioned that I was drawn into that album by a compelling opening track. In contrast I have to admit that the opening track on this particular album did actually put me off it for a few moments. However, persistence is a virtue which is often rewarded.

I encountered Caroline Haines’ music via the Feminatronic group on Soundcloud (which I heartily recommend, by the way) and her excellent track ‘Eraserhead‘ . From this I went to her Bandcamp site to see if she had anything worth reviewing for this blog… she does, readers, she certainly does.

The title track(s) of OST are for a collaboration with a visual artist but I’ve been so engrossed in the music that I haven’t even bothered to see if there is a visual element to the work apart from the prints that come with a tape – I’m really all about the sound, as you might have guessed. ‘OST1’ is a ritornello of noise interrupted by acoustic and electric guitars and industrial samples with the voices of collaborator Mary Stark and others rendered almost indistinct. It is variously terrifying, intriguing and occasionally comic as you never quite get a handle on what is going on. I must have listened to this track ten times or so and it always sounds fresh and new. Hearing it on different speakers or headphones just brings out nuances that you’d missed earlier.

The first track ends with Mary’s voice coherent for the first time and segues into ‘OST2’ where she has much more to say… certainly more that’s comprehensible. Over a guitar and percussion ostinato with occasional backing from what I suspect are the noises of an old-fashioned film projector, Mary talks about her film making in an entertaining and engaging way, including her love for the obsolete film technology which adds so much to the sound of the piece. Between the more normal speech parts we have Mary reciting timing countdowns or ingredients lists from an old-style chemical film developing process. This reminds me so much of evenings spent in my father’s darkroom making black and white and (later) colour prints. I can almost smell those chemicals again, though I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing, they were horrible!

‘OST3’ opens with ambient washes of gentle, slightly clipped (in a good way) noise – like wind with bits of smoke in it. Mary then explains more about the haphazard way she produced her first prints in a badly-equipped darkroom, the equipment she uses for her works, and growing up in the North West. As the Bandcamp notes state, this is in some sense a love letter to analogue film – the descriptions and anecdotes presented here are compellingly presented and are integrated really well with the sounds. The way the different sentences are EQed and the reverb on the voice really serve to bring out the messages and turn the disparate parts into a wonderfully coherent whole.

And so back to that first track, ‘Here’, that nearly prevented me from getting further with this wonderful album. It starts with out-of-tune whistling – need I say more? About the only acceptable incidence of any sort of whistling in music, in my opinion, opens Supertramp’s ‘Easy Does It’and after forty years I’m still unsure about that. But once you get past this drunken obstacle the track opens out into something rather lovely and the whistling becomes half-drowned in synth pads and noise. It does work, and the noises at the end close it off well, but I still have trouble with the solo opening. Sorry!

The final track, ‘I Found This’ continues the industrial theme with some great off-kilter rhythms accompanied by indistinct vocals. It breathes in and out like a huge mechanical squeezebox building to gentle and not-so-gentle climaxes that consume you before dropping back to just the vocals and then starting again. This is more of a pure ‘music’ piece than the OST ones, the clanks and string sounds being the main driving force behind it, with the vocals adding a mysterious side-order. These are surely the sounds of human beings subsumed by the machines they are working.



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