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Andrew Chalk - The River that Flows into the Sands

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Artist: Andrew Chalk

Album: The River that Flows into the Sands

Label: Faraway Press

Review date: Feb. 26, 2006

The recent burst of release activity from Andrew Chalk has thrown up a few curveballs for connoisseurs of his music. The River that Flows into the Sands moves away from his predisposition for layers of shifting drones into something a little more rooted in the physical world.

His reliance here on guitar means that this release has a more natural improvisational structure than his typical drifting layers of sculpting sound. Despite the lack of extended drones, the album flows incredibly well from track to track. Instead of creating another sluicing and single-minded ride with the album, he sequences five pieces, each with distinct and instantly perceivable personalities. The music doesn't hang together in any real thematic sense, reaching from some of his most consciously melodic music to a sense of almost disorientating malaise. The title also manages to avoid making a definitive statement, being one of those half-empty-half-full deals where it's either a river running itself dry or its bringing a rebirth to the barren desert earth.

To continue the fluid theme for a moment longer, the liquid notes of "One" hang between the speakers like bobbing droplets, and it's on the opener that the corporeal properties of wood and strings stand out the most. Harmonious trails trickle from the careful notes, some easier to follow than others as they fade into echo.

It's not all a pleasant boat ride at dusk on a brisk autumn evening though, as both "Two" and "Four" bring a moodier edge, with manipulations that can throw the mind off track as shapes emerge and fade only to appear seconds later somewhere else. "Three" is a highlight, albeit much too short, with a ring-to-the-rafters echoic prayer. The darker it gets, the brighter Chalk’s treble shines.

For all of the weight and washes of Dead Sea guitar, the music reaches moments of the highest open-hearted hope in the unexpectedly pleasing turns of "Five.” The ingredients may be the same as much grey-skied noise/drone music, but this LP parts holes in the covering to show shafts of optimism. Out of all of Chalk's solo releases, this is the one that'll pull in the casual listener.

By Scott McKeating

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