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DEAN McPHEE / CHAPTERS – Split (7″, World in Winter)

Posted: April 30th, 2009, by Dave Stockwell

World in Winter are the kind of label I like a lot – interested in unusual or experimental music, but consistently finding stuff that is familiar enough to make listening an easy thing. It may sound obvious, but it’s a hard balance to strike as consistently and as well as WiW do. This, their latest release, is a split 7″ between solo guitarist Dean McPhee and the band Chapters, who I reviewed a while back.

This would appear to be the debut release by Dean McPhee, a man who marries a melodic fingerpicking style to unusual guitar tunings and chords, backing them up with subtle effects to increase the otherwordly atmosphere. You can listen to his contribution to this 7″, a song called “Water Burial”, at last.fm. A smoothly echoing series of variations on a raga-like theme, it’s a beguiling and soothing listen. Personally, I can do without the vibrato effect on the guitar, but that’s probably what gave the song its name – the sound is akin to ripples of water spreading out from a slowly sinking object – say, a coffin? Overall it’s nice stuff and should be a decent precursor to a debut fell-length album later this year.

Chapters are an experimental group who tend towards the more ambient than the crashing crescendo side of rock. Their song “The Whiteness of the Whale” is a further development from ‘EP1’ and a triumph of sparse beauty. A heavily tremeloed guitar starts the track, joined by a droning moog organ and muted drum machine beat. These three elements intertwine and then ebb and flow from each other as further layers of muted keyboards, guitar and electronics are added to the mix. It’s a a subtle and slowly unfurling beauty of a track, and hands down the best thing I’ve heard by Chapters to date.

Overall all then, this is a tasty listen and well worth tracking down. It’s been out a wee while, so head on over to the World in Winter website to hear some previews and find out where you can sort yourself a copy.

Dean McPhee