Review: Richard Chartier – Recurrence

When listening to Recurrence, I think back to Chartier’s Transparency (Performance) – one of the first Line releases to grace the pages of ATTN – and appreciate the ways which he is capable of manipulating one’s perception of surrounding space and the listener’s own body. Transparency evokes a hyper-awareness, with chimes of frequency (spread right across the Grand Tonometer’s four-octave range) dotted sporadically among anxious gaps of quiet. The vast spectrum of pure vibration interacts with the whole listening body (bass frequencies juddering through the gut, high pitches skimming the tops of the ears), while realising space with clinical precision. It’s brittle and gentle, carefully illuminating aspects of body and dimension in turn, implementing quiet to allow for reflection in both acoustic and meditative forms.

Recurrence has a much more ambiguous relationship with the listening conditions, obscuring its sound sources (is that organic feedback or electrical drone?) and blurring the boundaries between what exists within the composition and what manifests via perceptual illusion. Sound surges into being and fades slowly out again, blotting out other sounds on its way through – if Transparency was a spotless white laboratory room, Recurrence is a swamp of thick vibration, deliberately swirling crumples of static in with the whines and beeps of the foreground. It is as carefully assembled as any of Chartier’s works, yet the blocks are more complex, more malleable; they shift in shape and volume, throbbing gently like a power generator or chirping like electronic crickets, or stuttering between tone and static like a radio transmission falling away from clear signal. It’s unpredictable and somewhat threatening for it. This is Chartier with the lights off – it emerges from the dark out of nowhere, half hidden in shadow. It toys with the listener’s sense of self and the surrounding space, with both evaporating into uncertainty as the textures of Recurrence send one’s sense of body and atmosphere into unresting flux.