Last month we reviewed the first six releases in La Petite Chambre‘s shelter-in place series, At Home With (songs for solitude). Today we cover the concluding six. Twelve seems a nice round number, like a box of donuts or the 12 Days of Christmas. It’s one of two major series to wrap up this week, along with Whitelabrecs’ Home Diaries. From these endings we can draw one distinct conclusion: we’re all emerging from our homes, like moths from chrysalises.
For the most part, the solitude is over. The quarantine days have passed. But this doesn’t mean this was a good idea. We’re emerging, yes ~ mingling, partying ~ and in some cases have sent our communities backwards. Brazil, home of La Petite Chambre, saw its pandemic numbers spike in recent weeks. New York has shown incredible improvement after being the epicenter of the pandemic; but other places in the States are peaking, as are the nation’s overall numbers, and bars are closing down again. For better or worse, we’re outside; the genie is out of the bottle. But at least we have some good music to show for it.
The seventh release in the series returns to the first EP, as El Conejo (Bruno Nunez Coelho) is also a member of the band Constantina. Ironically, we’re back in the States, with field recordings from Texas and New Mexico and a beautiful pallet of soft sounds. “Oh My Sweet Cocoon” is a reminder of those early days when our homes became comfort zones, and we surrounded ourselves with junk food and light entertainment, sure it would all be over soon. Once the acoustic guitar enters, the track grows even warmer. Coelho seeks to lead his listeners to an idealized sense of home, whether in real life, memory or the imagination. “Bloom, Spring, Bloom” does just what the title says, reminiscent of the story that every blade of grass has an angel watching over it, whispering “Grow.” “Slow down,” writes Coelho. “You don’t need to despair.” Proceeds are donated to a friend’s Letterpress shoppe.
Grotta Veterano is next with a pair of ambient pieces recorded at night, yielding a deliberately lonely feeling. Proceeds benefit Italian Civil Protection. Italy had a hard time of it early, with half the nation hit harder than the rest. The desperation of the early days is felt here, as so many loved ones passed away in solitude. “Rahorn” is one of the series’ longest pieces, growing until it reaches a center of withdrawal. After near-silence, the track re-launches in a more melodic fashion. “Kingtitle See” begins in quietude, then slowly rises from mist to fog: the fog of unknowing, anxiety, fear.
The mood lightens with Tropiques, whose proceeds benefit Teatro Espanca! The duo presents two breezy pieces that sound like the bridge between spring and summer. “Faux Jumeaux” is a sparkling track that investigates parallel paths, inviting listeners to muse about alternate outcomes, although not necessarily in a bad way. It could have been better, but it also could have been a whole lot worse, and it still might be, so why not enjoy the day? “Trickster” is an invitation to have fun. These Frenchmen seem to have survived lockdown with their sense of humor intact.
Christopher Scullion is donating his proceeds to Viva, a São Paulo neurorehabilitation clinic for kids. The generosity of these artists is incredible. “This Is It! Is This It?” is one of the series’ most ebullient tracks, perfect for the younger ones. Light singing and timbres of toys produce a safe feeling, as does the running water of “Still.” As Scullion is personally involved in the clinic, one can hear his empathy in these works; “Still” also includes samples of happy children. In the weeks prior to this release, the virus surged in Brazil, resulting in a three-week layoff between At Home With releases; but one can be sure the good work of Viva continued.
The penultimate entry comes from Eddu Ferreira, who presents “One Side: Your Body” and “Other Side: Your Voice.” Given the titles, one begins to think of the separations of quarantine, with so many lovers, friends and family members reliant on voice, image and letter. But Ferreira has a unique take, writing “The body is one of our homes.” Built around a central note, the opener includes wordless song and breath, repeated elements and a bout of kind percussion. The second is comprised of voice and acoustic guitar. Again Ferreira defies expectations, underlining the “internal voice” as well as the voice missed and the voice dreamt. The beneficiary: São Paulo’s Casa 1 cultural and social center.
Finally we arrive at Jeanann Dara‘s “Protectorate and the Protector,” the score to a Texas performance installation. As proceeds benefit Black Women’s Health Imperative, we can see the influence of current events on the series: a crisis added on top of a crisis (although this supposedly “new” crisis predates the pandemic by 401 years). We don’t exist in a vacuum. As the pandemic plunged the entire world into a space of vulnerability, it also increased our empathy and awareness, leading us to tackle huge societal problems on a scale unimaginable only a few months before.
For two minutes, we hear the wild Texas wind; then the music starts in earnest. A very pleasant surprise is the change in timbre: Dara’s work is dramatic and string-laden, a reflection of struggles within and without. Dueling lines are met by percussive plucks, leading to a breakdown in the center, a fold between the movements. From here the strings rise once again, as if leading the way to a world reimagined. This is a beautiful way to end the series: on a deeper, more hopeful note than we could have seen coming. Now it’s our turn to make it a reality. (Richard Allen)