Review: Eric Chenaux – Skullsplitter

Eric Chenaux - SkullsplitterI’m sharing a romantic meal with Chenaux. Alone, obviously. Perhaps at his place. The room is in crooked temperament; the lights are flickering and the dinner table is on an unsettling wonk. My food moves restlessly on my plate. Yet I’m lost in Chenaux’s voice to the point where I don’t care about anything else. A warmth passes directly between us. Even as the guitars droop and murmur to either side, my mind is transfixed on how Chenaux’s words dribble out like silk, occasionally quivering with a butterfly wing vibrato. When the serenade is as dreamy as this, who cares if the landscape bends and collapses around us?

This is the enigma with Chenaux. Skullsplitter is a solo record, although I often struggle to pair his drunkenly spun guitar work with his unconditional vocal composure. It’s as though his head is floating above a body that flounders under the chaos of the earth in flux, retaining a commitment to song even as the instruments beneath threaten to spill out into shapeless, gaseous improvisation. Wah pedals open up like clamshells and jazz café smoke leaks out, while distorted guitar solos stumble under the weight of red wine in excess – the melody within remains coherent but only just, tilting woozily between chords and almost falling over as it does so, tugged along by Chenaux’s gentle but steadfast vocal belief. Even when his voice drops out for the album’s instrumental pieces, I cling to its invisible imprint at the centre of the frame. The strings of “Le Vieux Favori” are like botched knitwork, woven into soft disarray, collating vaguely around a sporadic drip of bass notes. Chenaux’s voice exists as an absence and a longing within me; an empty chair across the table, whose eventual return on the subsequent “Summer And Time” feels like the most warm and assuring embrace after a brief spell of confusion and panic. Where did you go? I was lost in the music without you.