In late 2012 I was fortunate enough to receive a screener for an independent horror film called GUT, which turned out to be rather a nifty movie indeed (you can read the review here). One element of the film which stood out was the score, which was pretty minimalist and in my review I used words such as 'harsh' and 'jarring' - but in a good way of course. It was the perfect accompaniment to the disturbing imagery that was on offer. The man behind that particular soundtrack is a musician who goes by the name of Chvad SB and for the last fortnight I've been giving his new album a thorough listening to.
CRICKETS WERE THE COMPASS is an instrumental album comprised of six tracks and running for just shy of an hour. In the release which came with the CD it's described as 'a testament of loss' and despite the fact that the music is unaccompanied by lyrics the inner sleeve of the case has the track listing with each song followed by a line or two of abstract dialogue. By themselves the words don't make a whole lot of sense but when read all together and in order they make up something almost like a brief story or a poem. And this is where the 'testament of loss' quote starts to become more clear. There's something desolate about the album from the cover depicting a lone dog in some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland to the track names which include 'It Haunts Her' and 'The Dust Cloud Permeates'. And (at least in my opinion) the music contained on the disc seems to continue the trend.
The album kicks off with 'It Haunts Her' - 7 minutes of undulating drone punctuated by discordant strings which ends in what I can only describe as the musical equivalent of a death rattle.
'A Hair Before Sundown' follows with some really squelchy sounding modulation and sparse percussion which fades away to make way for 'The Dust Cloud Permeates' - the longest track coming in at over 14 minutes. It may be a tad too long for most people but for me it was probably the centerpiece of the album. It's very layered and varies from harsh to melodic and then back again, it's the kind of track that you can keep listening to and each time you'll find something that you hadn't noticed before.
Rather than continuing to describe each track I'm going to stop right here. Let's face it, if you like what you've read so far then you'll enjoy the remaining tracks as well. Don't like what you've read so far? Then this album isn't for you, but just to make sure you should probably scroll down a little and listen to the album opener anyway.
Excuse my pessimism for a moment but I have to be honest - whenever somebody asks me to review their new CD I kind of expect to receive a recording from some kid's pop-punk garage band, or some generic metal. It's not often I actually end up being sent something that fits my musical interests so well. It's happened in the past with CAPA's SHALLOW TOWERS and it's happened once again with this album. Lately I've been listening to a lot of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, CABARET VOLTAIRE and EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN and so in a way CRICKETS WERE THE COMPASS kind of fit in there comfortably for me. It's not an easy CD to recommend unless you listen to a lot of ambient / drone or old school industrial type stuff. It's also not an easy album to describe, but somehow I'm going to try anyway. Imagine for a second that Jean Michel Jarre got drunk on Absinthe and ended up writing the soundtrack to ERASERHEAD, because that's the only way I can describe this right now. It's a long, drifting sonic soundscape which can be as stark and aggressive as it can be soothing and melodic.
If movie soundtracks, experimental , ambient and/or minimalist music is your thing then do yourself a favor and check out CHVAD SB's CRICKETS WERE THE COMPASS. Listen to the track below and if you really like it you can head over to Siber Records and buy the album.
Official Chvad SB site.
Official Chvad SB Facebook Page.