David Chalmin ~ la terre invisible

This has been a good year for glockenspiels and chimes, which have graced such tracks as Dolphin Midwives’ “Temple V,” Quentin Sirjacq’s “Variations” and Snow Palms’ “Everything Ascending.”  Now Paris’ David Chalmin expresses his love for the timbre, while investigating numerous others along the way: everything from ambient to industrial.

The artist has an impressive pedigree as a producer and recording engineer, as can be read in the extensive bio on the release page.  We’re particularly curious about his recent composition for 100 pianos (not included here).  Given the fact that Chalmin has been in bands before, and has worked with artists ranging from The National to Zu, the electronic nature of his solo debut is a slight surprise.  Then again, we all have a thing for the beat.

The drums first appear on the second track, along with handclaps.  One can hear a light 90s influence in the underpinning melodies.  “les âmes perdues” is the sort of languid club track that might have appeared on a Global Underground mix back in the day.  Just when one thinks one won’t hear them, those chimes sneak in, adding a heavenly allure.  Then the room gets a little hotter, with the techno thump of lead single “matière noire” playing tricks on the ear.  (It’s also a Louis Vuitton fragrance, although we doubt that was the inspiration).  At 3:23, chimes again, ever so patient, preparing to dominate the closing minutes.  But in a rare turn, the lead single is not the best track.  That prize belongs to “vertige,” at nearly ten minutes the album’s longest piece.

This slow-grower is where Chalmin earns his stripes.  One can easily imagine this one in a current mix, as the producer plays with industrial and IDM, multiple patterns building along with the volume and intensity.  The disorienting rhythmic pulse of “matière noire” returns, messing with the equilibrium.  By the fifth minute, it becomes impossible to keep track of all the sounds.  And then the breakdown (6:08), reminiscent of Aphex Twin ~ where did this come from?  There’s no higher mountain to climb from here, so the artist offers a soft track as a closing cushion, tucking it gently beneath the listener’s head.  We still wish there were 99 more pianos, but one will have to do.

The only downside is that it’s hard to get a read on the composer.  Chalmin proves his proficiency in multiple genres, but fails to put the focus on any of them.  “Electronic” is an umbrella term, subject to wide interpretation.  Our advice is simple: you’ve shown us what you can do, so now concentrate on the things you do best.  Place more variety within tracks (as in “vertige”) than between them, while establishing a signature sound ~ preferably with chimes!  (Richard Allen)

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