Review: Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks Vol. 5

stuart-chalmers-imaginary-musicks-vol-5-coverThe past is collection of islands. Memories, tapes, books. All abandoned by the pertinence of the present tense, recalled out of the archives in an order governed by willpower rather than historical chronology, divorced from the context that initially brought them to be. Memories come to me out of sequence, chopped from the ribbon of time and muddled together. By mindfully merging tape recordings from various points in time – forming five-minute tracks of frayed loop and tape noise – Chalmers grants companionship to these lonely snapshots of sound, fabricating new paths of communication between estranged archival material. The past has a home again.

Over the trundling rhythms of tracks like “Harbinger”, Chalmers introduces recordings of guitars being tuned, strange gusts of weather and tiny passages of unintelligible conversation, all of which wander in and out of the frame like townspeople passing through a marketplace. Harmonious enough to generate a sense of civil co-existence, yet sufficiently discordant to retain the plethora of sonic backstories and micro-histories, all rubbing against eachother in agitation and in intimacy. He doesn’t shy from his love of messy, error-prone process. Beats emerge as disjointed returns of plosive and clacking percussion. Meanwhile, the record is rife with the squeal of tapes accelerated and rewound, as the voices of forgotten histories jostle for prominence with the brash, mechanical noises of Chalmers’ sonic meddling in the now.

Some of the most beautiful pieces have no rhythms at all (at least not in a coherent sense). The plodding pianos of “Nightscape” are panned all over the stereo frame, which makes it sound like they’re searching for eachother in the darkness – high drones sweep like flashlights, while loose strings clack like buoys at desolate harbour docks. “Celestial” is the radiant opposite: a waterfall of harps and violins and arpeggio, all glistening under the sunlight of major key, softened by the haze of analogue erosion and blissful heat fatigue. These sounds, undoubtedly all the gemstones of charity shop bargain bins and forgotten attic crates, seem to flourish in their new surroundings; rekindled in purpose, renewed in life.