Hour House – Chiltern (Penultimate Press)


Hour House is the duo of Mark Leacy and Sam Kenna, formerly of the Newcastle-based experimental outfit Castings. There’s no doubt they’ve continued their unconventional approach to sound, as Chiltern refuses to comply with pretty much everything.

The press release speaks of gaining inspiration by wandering through the iron bark forests and gold fields of country Victoria, yet this highly complex tapestry of sound, created with an incredibly diverse sound palette and a real mish mash of approaches, bear no obvious links to these travels. In fact there are no obvious links to anything. In terms of genre, the duo are operating somewhere within an experimental, electroacoustic world, where ill-defined field recordings merge with electronics and drones, blurring the line of perception between the electronic and the organic.

It’s a series of pieces, all merged together to create two larger extended works that fit on either side of an LP. Consequentially it does possess a feeling of travel, passing through disparate sonic environments, a bewildering, at times almost overwhelming journey. Chiltern doesn’t provide a lot to hold on to. The duo don’t make any concessions, and not unlike Castings, they refuse to compromise their own peculiar vision. Yet that’s precisely the charm of Chiltern – anything can happen at any time. Which is of course the freedom that never wholly identifying your sounds affords.

Part musique concrete, part music, part sound design, part quasi ethnic field recordings, part Industrial stomps, part ambient electronica, strange sounds swirl around, occasionally organise, and are joined by wails, vague spoken word and exotic instrumentation at a moments notice. There’s no explanation of why. It just is.

The press release ponders, “Is this a soundtrack to a mental experience or an altered take on a familiar reality?” But then again that just presupposes that there is a clear definable purpose of Chiltern, and that when we find it, all of these disparate sounds and approaches will finally make sense. I don’t think there is and I don’t think it will. Nor do I want it to. Chiltern is about being okay with not needing to understand everything. It is much more experiential. It requires a certain submission, which is not difficult to muster as the curious blend of Hour House’s assured and idiosyncratic approach is endlessly engaging.


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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.