The name Cinchel may be new to the ACL pages, but Chicago drone artist Jason Shanley has already amassed an impressive discography on multiple formats. Stereo Stasis is his most accomplished work to date and is a great entry point for new listeners. This latest release is pressed to vinyl, with a hand-painted watercolor cover finished with a green wax seal.
Normally we wouldn’t mention the color of the wax, but color is important to Cinchel, who “sees color gradients in (his) mind and score(s) them into compositions”. With recent attention being paid to even mild forms of synaesthesia, this combination of color and sound lends itself to potentially extensive interpretation. Are these sounds green, or pastel, or swirled? Are they, are the album art intimates, soft and smooth, devoid of jagged edges? Are they, like watercolored paper, somewhat wet to the touch? One common finding is true of all synaesthetes: they don’t agree. One person’s circle is another’s triangle; one person’s teal is another’s tanzanite. I hear more copper and gold in Stereo Stasis than aqua and beige, but it’s all in the mind’s eye. No matter how hard I squint or strain, I can’t hear the pastel; but I love the fact that Cinchel can.
When it comes to more immediate, universal comparisons, one might catch a whiff of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the opening track and professed artist idol Fennesz in the second, but Cinchel has been honing his sound slowly over the past few years and does not sound entirely like either. He’s able to incorporate influences without being engulfed by them, a nod to his professed alter-profession as a chemist. In creating the three pieces here, the artist worked with guitar, pedals, tape delay and (on track one) Fender Rhodes, creating a blend of the intricate and mildly foreboding. Stasis may not be the best term for the recording, as it seldom stays still for more than a moment and offers little in terms of offsetting force; the drone itself may seem constant, but is surrounded by mutation. By the end, static attempts to break through and hijack the session, but is unable to vent its full aggression.
Each individual track contributes to the whole while containing standout segments. To this listener, the finest stretches include the fanfare opening and bell tone ending of “Revelations Upon Waking”, the receding buoy sound of “Static”, and the twisting timbres of the closer. After so many previous efforts, Stereo Stasis deserves to be Cinchel’s breakthrough album. It’s a message of encouragement to other like-minded artists: look how far you can progress. Whether perceived as green or yellow, round or square, this message is well worth hearing. (Richard Allen)