John Chantler – Still Light Outside (1703 Skivbolaget)


Australian born now Swedish resident John Chantler conjures up immense slabs of sound on his latest, his fourth album. There’s no doubt its due to his source material, which came from the massive pipe organ at St John-at-Hackney in London. It’s also why in the opening piece, the wall vibrating title track, beneath the layers of dense warm textural noise seems to possess faint religious underpinnings. This is the kind of music God would make if she were a noise artist. Chantler made the recordings with the organ and his modular synth during his time in London, but then took them to the famed Elektronmusikstudion EMS studios in Stockholm and processed them through wall sized modular synths.

Even if you don’t like this album you have to spare a thought for the sheer kid in a candy store thrill Chantler would’ve experienced in its creation. And you can hear it in the diversity of his sounds and approaches.

There’s a real link to the work of his previous label head Lawrence English –particularly in his desire for a full bodied bone shaking sound, but this album delves into more microtonal or minimalistic moments, more interested in contrasts, with difficult pitches and elongated moments were it feels like the electrics are thrashing around underwater. In this sense its interesting his ability to remove the precision of the machines and create a certain abstract sense of uncontrolled chance in the spitting and fluttering, and when he brings in the organ it takes on near evangelical significance.

Chantler never really escapes the churchliness of the organ, yet it’s also something that he never overtly acknowledges or uses as any kind of diegetic signpost, for him it is just another sound source. Yet as a droning impenetrable wall of stasis that builds alongside the immense bottom end of a Buchla, it more than hold its own. In fact the combination of the two worlds is fascinating, both places of worship, both designed to elicit awe. And they do on Still Light Outside.

His electronics are simultaneously brutal and mischievous, seemingly with a mind of their own, often feeling like they’re tearing at the fabric of the song itself, yet somehow the all encompassing reassuring lull of the organ manages to keep everything cohesive, and when, like on the final piece “The Long Shadow of Decline Part III,” he dips down the density and distortion, bringing up the reverb, we’re heading into gorgeous near ambient territory. An amazing aural experience.


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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.