Chemistry Lessons Vol 1 by Chris Carter

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It seems unlikely that Chris Carter has not released a solo record in seventeen years, oh time slips swiftly. The ensuing years have been filled with lots of other projects and collaborations, and we land here amidst his latest work, Chemistry Lessons, Volume One (Mute). The record is released on May 30th (Vinyl, CD) and was well worth the lengthy wait.  And right off the bat, the lead track comes with a desaturated, acid washed video montage for Blissters, of his own making:

With subtle nods to Krautrock and early 90’s Cabaret Voltaire he incorporates vocals that cross emulate enchantingly between Anonhi and Tor Lundvall. Guaranteed that you’re in for something clear and present, even though the artist refers to the vocal as ‘artificial’ – developed in experiments with his former Throbbing Gristle compadre, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson (1955-2010). The front-facing synthy-ness of the track is like striped ear candy – and that’s just the first act in a collection of 25 short tracks, most averaging just over two minutes. There are bouncy tones matched with muted vocals (i.e. Cernubicua) that sound like a sort of Cambodian chant and at times with a South Asian flair (Rehndim). It’s poppy and reserved, chock-full of electronic patches and wire play. If you removed the subtle beats you’d have a quasi-spiritual tribal sound that plays like a new form of trance music (Pillars of Wah). The gently shifting layers are mesmerizing is their balance, striking tonal chords that vaporize.

Moon Two (above) is a synthesized wash of pitched tones like smoke rings forming and dissipating in thin air. The album is mostly airy and bright with Moroccan overtones on Durlin, reminding me of some earlier work by two of his best collaborations, CTI and Chris & Cosey. Breathy vocal treatments and unplugged white noise are dotted here and there amid sweeping ambient drones.

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CHEM-EQUASION: Art mimics life + mirroring sound x genrelessness = Chris Carter

The restraint on a super short track like Gradients shows that even bits and pieces under two minutes can have a sublime impact. The “chemistry” here are the ingredients Carter uses to deploy this project. Ghosting sounds like something by German duo Troum, disembodied, but with added percussion. He seems to take zero umbrage to any set style or mood here, moving fluidly from ambient to grungy rock (Post Industrial) to a rhythmic uptempo techno beat (Lab Test and Uysring) to a deep listening trance. These could be snippets of much longer works in the making, or rationalized edits that didn’t get lost on the cutting room floor. It reminds me of the sketches of Cy Twombly, whose signature style was always quite sketchy in the best possible way, just like Carter, the savvy inventor behind the legendary Gristleizer among other electronic gadgetry.

 

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