Andrew Chalk, "Everyone Goes Home When The Sun Sets"

Sunday, 30 July 2017 00:00 Anthony D'Amico Reviews - Albums and Singles

cover imageThis is kind of a companion piece to 2015's absolutely sublime A Light At The Edge of The World, embracing a similarly fragile and dreamy mood, but taking a very different structural approach:  while its processor took the shape of an extended and gorgeously floating stasis, Everyone Goes Home When The Sun Sets consists of nearly twenty discrete and ephemeral miniatures.  That is not entirely new territory for Chalk, as that approach previously reached its apotheosis with 2012’s fine Forty-Nine Views In Rhapsodies' Wave Serene, but it is still a curious step away from his strengths and his longform comfort zone.  As such, Everyone Goes Home is not quite as immersive and hypnotic as Edge Of The World, but it is still a fairly unique release within Chalk's canon, as its gently hallucinatory drift of glimmering vignettes offers its share of nuanced and distinctively Chalk-ian pleasures.

Faraway Press

The overarching theme throughout Everyone Goes Home is one of elegant simplicity and fragility, as Chalk crafts most of these pieces from little more than rippling, reverb-soaked piano reveries or cascading and pointillist koto motifs.  With few exceptions, Chalk seems quite intent on evoking something quite vaporous and dream-like, eschewing strong melodies and distinct edges in favor of impressionist and slow-motion tumbles of arpeggios.  That is merely the foundation, however, as pieces like "Minsaori" seem far more like production experiments than fully formed compositions, as the delicately plinking lattice of notes takes on a subtly rich life of quietly squelching and whooshing textures.  Both of those sides of Chalk's artistry are clearly working towards a common cause, however, as his endgame seems to be the creation of a woozily pretty sort of soft-focus unreality, like the musical equivalent of a rippling sun-dappled pond or a snowfall experienced in extreme slow-motion with crystalline clarity.  Granted, Andrew Chalk has essentially made an entire career out of slowing down time and blurring reality, but this album takes that approach to a greater extreme than usual, offering up a gently flickering fantasia of glistening and self-contained microcosmic soundworlds.  There are certainly elements of Chalk's characteristic drone impulses to be found, but the far more prevalent theme is that of space between notes, inviting me to focus my attention upon the timbre and texture of each individual note that slowly rolls across Chalk’s miniature sound-portrait.

Naturally, such an aesthetic is not an attention-grabbing one, so Everyone Goes Home When The Sun Sets is predominantly for the already converted–a certain element of trust is required to give these shimmering compositional droplets the necessary attention to unlock their small but exquisite pleasures.  Occasionally, however, Chalk allows himself three or four minutes to stretch out into something a bit more substantial.  My favorite of the pieces in that vein is "Silk String Quintet," which beautifully combines a blurred and see-sawing sway with glittering, slow-motion washes of synthesizer chords.  Not many other pieces offer much in the way of an actual pulse though, as the album's other highlights rely upon alternate tactics to stand out.  The gorgeous and too-brief "San Baladino," for example, bolsters its shimmering and rippling backdrop with a lazily bittersweet synthesizer melody.  Synthesizers appear again in "Misty Island," serving as a lush and emotive backdrop of organ-like chords to Chalk's languorous trickle of bleary piano tones.  Yet another highlight is "Spiritual Lanterns," which weaves a fragile and gently tumbling koto melody that is shadowed and enhanced by a lovely nimbus of understated and watery harmonies.  The tenderly melancholy closer "Solstice" is yet another high point, as Chalk's unhurried and quietly moving koto meditation cuts through a hissing, quavering haze of wah-wah sizzle.  A similar tactic is employed with "Platform Under The Stars," albeit with glistening electric piano substituted for koto.  The subtle wah-wah use is a nice addition to Chalk's palette, as his combined arsenal of effects enables his tender snatches of melody to seemingly hang in the air as a living, breathing, and squelching haze.

That said, I was initially a bit underwhelmed by the album, partly because I had loved A Light At The Edge Of The World and was hoping for more of the same.  This is not an easy album to fall in love with even without the hurdle of unreasonable expectations though, as it kind of feels like a slightly warped Andrew Chalk record playing as I drift off to sleep and flicker in and out of consciousness.  That is not inherently a bad thing, but it does not offer any solid ground to grasp onto: motifs rarely stick around longer than a few minutes, there are fragmented suggestions of melodies rather than actual melodies, everything feels wobbly and out-of-focus, the pieces all feel like similar variations upon a very constrained theme, and there is not any readily apparent arc unfolding as the album progresses.  It ultimately grew on me quite a bit though, which I suppose makes this album the proverbial "slow-burner."  Granted, it will probably never be among my favorite Andrew Chalk albums, but it is a good one and I am glad that it exists: there are already plenty of excellent albums exploring other facets of Chalk's vision, so an experiment like this is a welcome departure from the expected.  There is a lot of fragmented and precariously quivering beauty to be found here–it just takes a bit more time and effort than usual to get acclimated to the unusual pacing and flow of these vignettes and sketches.  Actually, "fragments" might be a far better term, as this album does not sound like a collection of half-finished ideas so much as it resembles a complete and coherent composition that has been purposely shattered.  That may also be the perfect simile for Chalk's aesthetic here: if a great Andrew Chalk album is like a beautiful and mysterious photograph that I can get lost in, Everyone Goes Home is like smashing the frame and studying the subtle refractions of light as the shards rain down and time slows to a complete stop.



Last Updated on Sunday, 30 July 2017 23:47