Chapels – Last Nights C25 (House of Alchemy)


This is my introduction to Chapels, which I’ve seen listed and written about in many places but never heard. The cassette comes with no information, just the title of the tape, which I take as functioning as the titles for the pieces on both sides.

Side A is dark and harsh in the way that a lot of early 80’s industrial cassette noise went. Mixtures of sampled noise, synth noises, droning voice, manipulated field recordings of metals and muffled speech, bursts of static like poorly recorded industry machines doing their repeated automatic motions (this sound keeps you company at clockwork pace for the entirety of the side, comforting you like Linus’ thumb sucking blanket, but dusted with cigarette ashes and damp with kerosene and cheap whiskey), caterwauling filter screeches, ghostly droning…gives you nightmares. I think that’s sort of the point, though. There’s a bitterness and a harsh reality to it.

The second side of the tape is collaged together with no spaces between the different pieces. One mass of distorted tonal textures cuts straight into the next. In contrast to the frightening alienated soundtrack to purgatory that is Side A, the tones chosen and the treatments given to them on Side B amount to a nostalgic, dreamy, thoughtful, lonely, beautiful vibe overall. There’s a harshness, but the chords are mostly of a major key so the harsh play of noise and manipulation puts forth more of a bliss than an intimidation. Gorgeous textures of distorted tones, filtering that makes the euphoric, spasming notes sound as if your head (with cotton balls in ears) and the speakers are inside of a small metal box, maybe about 2.5′ x 2.5′. After about two minutes the box is removed two sides at a time, opening up more of the high end frequencies and exposing the tones to more manipulatory influences. The sounds become more erratic and a bit more abrasive, being snipped off at the beginning of the next segment before exploding into total aged technicolor noise. Parallel crumbling and sticky sound currents.

This is well done lo-fi noise that goes in a number of interesting directions. It’s good that Chapels likes to wander around and try different moods out. This makes for complexity, which makes this sort of material of interest to me. There are ups and downs, and lateral movements in sound environment and texture that make tension and release, instead of there being only a solid cinder block monument of tension you can’t get past.

To House of Alchemy & Chapels online land:

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