Alas, a component of my life I have missed this year is the ability to walk into a gig ‘ear-blind’ – It’s an amazing way to install new music into one’s mind. Clearly the solution has been to buy records from bands that I have never heard before. It is safe to say that this instance has paid off, Stolen Body announced the release of Darque Tan by a band called Chew.
Who are Chew? I had no idea. But Stolen Body has a precedent of never disappointing me so I took the chance.
Needless to say, despite not know what to expect I’m certain I wasn’t expecting what I received. Not the record itself, a beautiful half and half green / grey marbley effect and the artwork is wicked but the tunes have really messed with a brain in a wonderful way.
Track one is particularly misleading, (Ti + Do) opening the album like a dreamy anime or a cult film about two friends going on a road trip that ends sinisterly somewhere in Oregon. It’s an optimistic fusing of Goldfrapp and Ladytron, with an upbeat air of the music they used to play in trendy shops in Bristol at the turn of the century, something vaguely ‘Beautiful Stranger’ – it’s a vague sensation and after dozens of listens so far I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s there and it’s amazing… shit, am I chasing the musical dragon? Is the first track about drug awareness? It feels like I’m trying to track down the NOS conclusion, a few more listens and I’ll get off the stuff I swear.
The second track sets out a monochrome journey to the job centre, via a cemetery – every corner of this track is jagged, angsty, like someone has comprised a reasonably stressful day into a track, setting off with good intentions but all too soon getting tangled in the tar of everyday life. The guitar is like thorns on the skin, you want to pull away but the octavian drone of basses and amassing effects in the background glue you in, keep you watching like your eyes are taped open. It’s psychedelic, but it’s whatever the back of psychedelia that I know looks like – with so much sounding like a trip into space, by contrast this is a very concrete journey, fixed here in terra firma, now and again a refreshing break, like the whole piece is glancing upwards, yearning for that freedom, not realising that it isn’t even constrained. How is that even possible? Who is this band? What?! The dreamy guitar riffing at the end, is that success or defeat? Am I watching this music right?
Trucker Jesus is, where I would imagine my aforementioned cult film about friends on a road trip would start going wrong, the angst ramps up but so does the pace – as a track it feels wider, with a shimmer of light throughout, but it still makes you feel like you’re late for something, it’s crying out for help via guitars that sound like bickering dogs.
There’s a brief respite with Star Sixty-Nine which on one hand says ‘oh so you thought we were going to space did ya? and on the other hand has me boarding a subway train – the imagery and mental conjures during this whole album completely contradict one another and I just can’t help but assume that that is deliberate.
From then on the album descends, rather quickly into something that could have been a Castlevania soundtrack entry – in fact, listening to this album whilst playing Castlevania is an amazing idea. It’s all boss fights from track two onwards with heavy, blatant chord shapes that hit like heavy cursed rain – but what is that instrument? Is it a guitar drained in effects? Or a church organ being played by a length of railway track? The bass rids itself of the thick skin from the earlier tracks, as if it is standing up and siding with the ‘mystery instrument’ like a bully and their sidekick. There’s an inquisitiveness in the structure, I can’t tell if it’s drawing my curiosity further or making fun of me, but it’s there I tell you.
The final punishment which I’ve just realised is called The Moon Is Not An Easy Target so now I DO feel this album is mocking me and my attempts at inner-mind space travel – is an off kilter-cosmic journey into hell. The antithesis of Slift or Sunflowers because now we are going STRAIGHT DOWN – past the demon forests, the flaming pits, the oozing tar and trapped souls. The fast-riding drums are the most calming component, the erratic bass line is that friend telling us ‘everything is fine’ as we use the rug as a portal of transcension into the darkest reaches of our minds.
Then suddenly you are there.
and it’s calming.
Others are there.
You get coffee.
And it’s over.
So you pick up the needle and you put it right back at the start.
I’ve listened to this more in the last week than some records that I have owned my entire life.
Fancy a go? Get it here: