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CHAPTERS – EP1 (CDEP, World In Winter Recordings)

Posted: October 7th, 2007, by Dave Stockwell

Chapters are a new musical proposition, formed in London despite the fact that all 3 members originally met at school in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Ex-members of Dakota Oak Trio and Pedro, their musical ease and cohesiveness as performers together belies the band’s short lifespan so far. This is backed up by some lovely drumming work provided by Chris Walmsley, of All Traps Set and Broadcast, and most recently as part of Rick Tomlinson’s Voice Of The Seven Woods project. And very lovely they are too.

This CD is Chapters’ debut solo release, following a split 7″ with labelmates and previous diskant reviewees Angela Valid. Compiled over sessions in 2005 and 2006, it’s a consistent and satisfying introduction to an instrumental band that likes to linger in the more enjoyably melodious areas of modern forward-thinking guitar and electronic music.

Beginning with whirring, bubbling electronics and a glockenspiel bleeding into phased acoustic guitar, Chapters’ music quickly takes recognisable shape, dominated by lyrical acoustic guitar playing that carries the burden of the bulk of the “song” of each track. Based around delicately fingerpicked phrases and chords, the guitar is well-complemented by simple tremeloed electric guitar melodies with understated bass and keyboard work, propelled forward by briskly brushed drums and slowly splashing cymbals.

Electronics and experimental work is wisely kept to the background for the bulk of the tracks, only emerging to introduce or alter the texture of an otherwise-straightforward song when necessary. This, coupled with modern Tortoise-esque approaches to fluid experiments with textures and songforms, means that Chapters’ songs always sound natural and never forced, paying dividends in the form of memorable moments and brain-itching melodies running throughout the EP’s length. The aping of “In Den Garten Des Pharaos”-era Popol Vuh’s cymbal washes and organ sounds that make a false start to “Light Lay Down” is also cute and well appreciated by this particular reviewer.

A real highlight of the EP is the 8-minute centre-piece song “The Last Days Of Steam”, which sees Chapters at their sunniest and most accessible. Sounding distinctly reminiscent of the careful instrumental arrangements of Jim O’Rourke’s ‘pop’ records, back when he was juggling obsessions with John Fahey and Burt Bacharach (see “Eureka” and “Insignificance”), it happily burbles along in a jolly electro-acoustic manner, gradually building in depth and energy as it switches between 2 different passages that act as chorus and verse, but never forcing itself to an unnecessary climax. And who needs a climax or even a coda when you’ve got two tunes that fit together quite as well as this? It’s a delight, and you’ll barely notice the running length as the band explores the limits of the song’s possibilities.

My only real criticism of “EP1” is that, as a whole, the textural experimentation and use of instruments feels very ‘set’ from the opening track. Once Chapters have established a certain sound a couple of minutes into this release, they seem content to explore it without too much variation from track-to-track. You certainly couldn’t tell that this was recorded in more than one session. For me then, it’s crucial that this EP only lasts 26-odd minutes. If Chapters are to produce a full-length album in the future, I’d hope for slightly more variation in terms of ‘experimental’ approach. But this is still worth checking out, and I look forward to hearing where Chapters are at next time they decide to release anything.


Dave Stockwell

David can always be relied on to end his e-mails with one of those 'np: blah blah' things in order to remind us of how much more music he listens to every day than anybody else. His interests include rockin ' out in a major style as guitarist in Souvaris, throwing frisbees from tall buildings "just to see what happens" and simply kickin' back with his bitches in a gold-plated jacuzzi.


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