Cyclic Selects: John Chantler


Originally from Australia, John Chantler moved to the UK in 2003 after living in Japan for two years. He works primarily with modular synthesizer systems and has presented his work in USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and across Europe. He also convenes the Organ Octet – a large ensemble where everyone plays a similar type of reed/chord organ. Chantler’s last LP The Luminous Ground (Room40) was included at #37 in The Wire magazine’ top 50 releases of 2011. In recent years he has also been the producer at London’ Cafe OTO and is responsible for programming the venue’ internationally renowned concerts.

His latest release, this months Even Clean Hands Damage The Work (Room40) is a highly synthetic, highly textural, yet deeply melodic work of experimental electronics that seemingly crosses the divide between nature and electricity, at times feeling like a field recording of electrics caught frolicking in the wild, dipping into textural drones, noise, strange scattered sonics and all manner of beautiful evocative excursions over the course of two extended pieces.

Recently he sat down for Cyclic Defrost and reflected upon some of the music that has shaped him.

Ornette Coleman – The Shape Of Jazz To Come (Atlantic)

This was one of a few records that I surreptitiously copied onto minidisc from the listening stations at the State Library of Queensland. I can still clearly picture the walk from my house to the train station everytime I hear it. This was probably the first jazz music that I “got’s and it still has a completely transportative effect on me, accessible (the tunes are super catchy), but also impossibly sophisticated, cool, and what seemed completely other to my life in Brisbane at the time.

Maher Shalal Hash Baz – Blues Du Jour (Geographic)

This is one of those life changing records for me. I lived in Shikoku in rural Japan between 2001-2003 and started subscribing to The WIRE at that time. One month my copy of the magazine never arrived and a few weeks later I received in its place a letter from a guy called Tori Kudo who’d got my sub sheet alongside his own. “Sometimes the WIRE picks up on my band Maher Shalal Hash Baz” he said. “It’s strange to find someone reading the WIRE in Ehime. Do you also make music”. I’d never heard of Maher, but looked them up and got curious, sent him some stuff I was working on and he sent me two CDrs of the rough mixes and alternate takes for Blues du Jour. I was floored. Music that on first listen seemed so broken and wrong, but remained shockingly present and powerful. It still sounds magical and fills me with joy everytime I hear it. It really opened this up for my thoughts about music and what was possible.

Shortly after I went and met Tori at one of his pottery exhibitions and he immediately invited me to join Maher in Tokyo (this concert was released by Guy Blackman on his Chapter Music label) where I also met Saya and Ueno of Tenniscoats.

Maher is also instrumental in my involvement with Cafe OTO (I book the concert programme there). Tori and Reiko were returning to London in 2005 to visit their son Namio who was still living there and I offered to organise a concert for them – the first time I’d done it. The place packed out. Again Tori was making things possible. A not too dissimilar situation a few years later and Saya from Tenniscoats was in town to mix their collaborative LP with The Pastels. I’d heard about this new place opening up with the Japanese name and got in touch. Yeah, they were Tenniscoats fans. Yeah, they should be open in time… That concert became the first one at Cafe OTO – a place I now can’ imagine my relationship to music without.

Peter Broetzmann / John Edwards / Steve Noble – …The Worse The Better (OTOROKU)

I love all of the early Brötzmann stuff – he’ one of my favourite people, musicians and artists – but it’s his late playing – post going sober – that I most want to listen to. It has a powerful economy of means, rarely matched for expressive power and this is a pretty fine example of that. It’s also a great entry point to the playing of Steve Noble and John Edwards. Hard to know how much their work resonates outside London, but seeing them countless times over the last years has been a real privilege. Steve’ ongoing refinement of his distinctive voicing on the kit and John’ undiminished creative resources and unparalleled levels on invention go to the heart of what I want music to be.

Kim Suk Chul Ensemble – Korean Shamans of the Eastern Seaboard (?)

I met Samm Bennett and Haruna Ito when I still lived in Japan and would often stay with them in Tokyo, hanging out and talking music. They turned me onto a bunch of things including this recording of Korean Shaman music. This remains some of the wildest stuff I’ve ever heard. Keening reeds that rarely let up and percussionists that make Sunny Murray sound like he’ playing a backbeat in 4/4.

Animal Collective – Hear Comes The Indian (Paw Tracks)

I saw Avey Tare and Panda Bear play live on my second night in London in October 2003. There were playing material from this and Sung Tongs if I remember right. It seemed they played in London every other month and I probably saw them half a dozen times over the course of that year. I find the saccharine density of their later records too much but the extreme dynamics of this record: propulsive drumming to barely there sing-alongs and fried lo-fi electronics/tape gunk cast a spell of positive confusion about what I wanted my own music to be for the next few years.

Jim O’Rourke – He Who Laughs (NEON Gallery)

I love all of Jim’ music, but particularly the electronic stuff. From the elusive, saturated udder on the cover to the slippery electronics – and hilarious marching band interlude! – on the record itself, this one is one of my all time favourites sometimes spending whole weeks as the only record on my turntable.

Richard Youngs – The Naive Shaman (JagJaguwar)

Richard Youngs – much like Robert Wyatt (my favourite human being whom i’m never met) – is the best of England. Unapologetically idiosyncratic. No show. You get what you get. This is the first record of his I discovered and it kicked off a long traipse through his back catalogue and there was never a shortage of new stuff to grip, too. Much of my favourite music either rides waves of glorious repetition or embodies a sense of imminent collapse. This one frequently does both.

Morton Feldman – Patterns in The Chromatic Field (Tzadik)

Not long after moving to London I saw a performance of Feldman’ Madame Press Died Last Week at Ninety as part of a John Cage/New York School event at The Barbican. I couldn’ get it out of my head. I got a copy of the score and Matt Nicholson and I set about versioning it in a way that would have had Morton cursing in his grave but was great fun for us. Anyways, this was my introduction to Feldman, but the piece I probably come back to most is this later work for cello and piano – much more angular. Hard, even. Seeing Golden Fur (James Rushford & Judith Hamann) play it at OTO was also a stark reminder of the role that rhythm plays in what on the surface seems to drift in perpetual mystery.

Dean Roberts – “…and The Black Moths Play The Grand Cinema’ (Staubgold)

Beautiful hybrid of glitchy electronic minimalism and genre-less songform. A Brian Eno cover. “Spaceships!”. Killer Matt Valentine bass line. The sound of Tim Barnes’ snare drum. Minute after minute of looping hi-hats. Dean’ voice barely audible. Late night music par excellence.

Bernard Parmegiani – L’Å’il écoute / Dedans-Dehors (Recollection GRM)

Parmegiani is the master. I could cheat and put down the boxset but really the pick of his stuff for me is the LP on Recollection GRM with L’Å’il écoute / Dedans-Dehors. Constantly alive with flickering stereo detail, immaculate editing and a shocking dynamic range all unleashed under Parmegiani’ complete, next-level control. Nothing else in electronic music can touch it.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.