Jason Shanley (Cinchel) has surprised us once again. The last time we reviewed Cinchel, we encountered quarter-hour drones on limited edition vinyl sealed with green wax. This time out, we find a gorgeous zine and 25 short tracks spanning the length of a year. The titles and concept are similar to those used by Lullatone; they tell stories before the music has even been played. It’s hard to resist an album with tracks titled, “drinking the last of the sun-tea and watching the leaves begin to change” and “that sound the radiators make”.
Australians, whose summer has just ended, will want to begin in the middle with “first apple pie from the oven and the kitchen smells wonderful again”. The rest of us, edging from a nefarious winter, can start with track one, “it’s finally warm again, but sometimes it still snows”. These small, gentle tracks, an hour and a half in total, lead us quietly through the year with peace and muted grace. As the seasons gently change, the tones follow suit. Even when the tracks grow slightly raw (“rain floods, harsh sounds”), they remain benign, thanks to a simple setup of acoustic guitar and tape delay. The album wraps around the listener like cool cotton and warm wool. With rough edges shorn, Cinchel stands for comfort.
The photographs (taken by Jason and his wife Kirstie, one photo for each track) add to the home-spun allure. The timbres of the music find reflection in the colors of the images, reinforcing the synaesthetic connection first apparent on Stereo Stasis. Upon seeing the images, one thinks, “oh yes, this sounds like that”, although one is not always able to articulate the reasons. Smudge and layer proliferate, producing a light blur of sound and sight. In one of the most striking images, a red apple stands in relief against an icy blue backdrop. In another, a yellow swing dangles motionless against the white of a new snowfall; in another, an orange-veined leaf lies embedded in aqua. But there is also room for the pattern on a curtain, a garland of icicles, a fallen tree.