The gilded gates depicted on this record’s cover may/may not be an open invitation. Either side you’re on, the new 2xLP (plus CD/DL) by Swiss-born/London-based composer Christopher Chaplin is in fact, Paradise Lost (Fabrique Records, Vienna). Out June 15, it’s condensed to three tracks (9 to 19 minutes each) starting with the curious I Dread. Immediately you are entering a world fueled by suspense, Nathan Vale‘s operatic vocal is open and confident as he orates on about ‘midnight vapor’ (lyrics by John Milton) to the ring, ting and jangle of various percussion and brass instruments. The drone is actually a stretched vocal sample, like a winding chant. The bass is clever and detached. Avant-electronica meets chamber music in the middle here. Midway through track one, it’s a mystical arcade of ecstatic activity, tiny tinkering melds with a soaring synth harmony atop an ascending multitiered chorale.
Dave The Shoe is up next. A narrator tells a story about ‘Tiny’, ‘Blackie’, ‘Benny Glick’, asking questions, waxing poetically, in something of a fluxus poem over a gorgeous violin and blurpy beats. Are these character nicknames in a noir gangster flick, and just who is this mysterious ‘Dave’? The slang-text uses retro street lingo, slowly repeats, breaks apart, deconstructing the context or need to know who this man is. This work is presented live in concert with video projections (assembled/processed in real time by Luma.Launisch), but it could easily find its way into other performative realms, I can see this as a contemporary dance soundtrack, causing for abrupt movements, drops, disappearances to stage left. The quirky lyrics by Leslie Winer (and vocals) are post-modern perfect, comporting an exquisite corpse brought back to life (likely a zombie these days). Even phrases like “pay no attention” only evoke the opposite given the dramatic atmosphere Chaplin conjures. Ending with a morale about a dead dog, the media and other paranoia. It’s loosely speaking-in-tongues, wrapt right round electronic reverse effects and a whole lot of open-ended-ness.
Lastly, Of This New World opens with the sweet vocal (Vale) with suspenseful edges created by layers of warm static ambience, and other triggered sound effects. The album is artful nu-opera for worn ears. Sounds that surprise and emulate live experiments, tests, strategies. The physical, sonic manipulations manage to court the lilting voice of reason. There’s much delivered within this short journey with its cheeky format, and the bated breath it induces.