Review: Loren Chasse – Characters At The Water Margin

Loren Chasse - Characters At The Water MarginUntil now, I have undervalued that buoyant, weighty click of pebbles knocking together. The crumple of stone skidding against stone, no doubt dry and perfectly smooth if I could touch them; that placid grey that remains indifferent to the constant upheaval at the hands of the surging tide and Chasse’s own intervening limbs. I hear weight and curvature.

Characters At The Water Margin was recorded on the edge of the Olympic Rainforest in Washington state, at the point the Hoh River meets the Pacific. Naturally, the dialogue between land and water is at its most intimate and argumentative on the very border. Sometimes the sound of the waves hangs like a distant drape (presumably as I’m further down the Hoh, amidst the more polite tug of the river current), while at other points I feel like my whole head is riding upon the crest, the liquid content of my skull forever sloshing forward and back. I hear stones and hollow wood trying and failing to resist, rolling over themselves again and again.

The rainforest manifests not as a landscape, but as implications of debris and detached artefact. The start of “Striking Cedar Tongues” sounds like marimbas in sporadic rainfall – a stuttering congregation of tuneful, reverberant plonks – while “Ovoids For A Tumbling Pattern” feels like eavesdropping on an island ritual of palm and wooden blocks, as if I’m crouching underwater somewhere nearby, silently entranced by the rhythm. Elsewhere, a shell comb against igneous rock sounds like foam sucked through a thin straw, while a frantic rabble of squeaks (what I presume to be water pushing driftwood together) sounds like hundreds of rodents escaping at once. I hear both the landscape as it is, and the subtle interference of Chasse’s indulged curiosity – both he and the ocean seem caught in an instigative duet, rubbing landscapes against one another. The resultant audio is thick and immaculate.