A Journal Of The Dark Arts
The sound of the pipe organ seems to inherently evoke a feeling of awe in the presence of the sublime along with images of the vastness of eternity, thanks to their affiliation with religious architecture.
Australian-born, London-based artist John Chantler plays with these religious associations on Still Light, Outside, layering drifting, crushing organ drones with modular electronic flourishes, making for a truly timeless listening experience.
Still Light, Outside is comprised of two “songs”, split over 4 tracks, based on hours of recordings from the mammoth pipe organ at St. John-At-Hackney church, which he then took to Stockholm’s Elektronmusikstudion EMS studio for further processing and editing.
Still Light, Outside opens with the burning, distorted organ waves of “Still Light, Outside”. Chantler starts things off with a reverent, ethereal bang, not that far removed from the original source material, but remote and distant, both in time and space. This could be the sound of listening to the distant thunder of a pipe organ from outside the edifice of a cathedral, or through a rift in time. Sounds stack and layer on top of one another, like some Titan organist releasing the stops on sub-sonic bass harmonics and cracking the earth in the process.
“Still Light, Outside” bears more than a passing resemblance to Tim Hecker’s Harmony In Ultraviolet, a stone cold classic of drone musick that sounds like sitting in the direct path of a pyrochlastic flow, or perhaps in a jet turbine testing facility.
The remainder of Still Light, Outside is comprised of “The Long Shadow Of Decline”, spread out over three longform tracks, making a kind of suite of rumbles, bubbles, and echoing reverb. If you hadn’t read the liner notes, you’d never know these were sourced from an English cathedral. Sounds more like Alpha Centauri or the Marianis Trench, as deep back drones are squashed into shadowy groans, which are layered with murky water, sonar bleeps, and piercing crystalline ultrasonics.
Perhaps it’s just the historic associations of the pipe organ, but i can’t help but have the feeling of time collapsing in on itself, floating along to Still Life, Outside. It’s like if you were to experience the entire lifespan of a burial mound, from the first crude carved blocks of stone to the raising of the cathedral, and its eventual decline. The Shadow Of The Long Decline is what it might sound like if some alien cave were echoing with religious music of the past, distant and haunting. Crystal bats hang upside down from quart stalactites, while banks of unidentifiable machinery perform cryptic tasks in indecipherable cyphers.
Whatever imagery it conjures, suffice it to say that you will be transported, listening to Still Life, Outside. Meditating on the drones, time seems to stand still, allowing the possibility of examining each waveform in macroscopic detail. For those that still have the patience to delve into longform, abstract composition, there are many wonders to behold during Still Light, Outside’s duration.
Still Light, Outside is the inaugural debut of Chantler’s new label, 1703 Skivbolaget, and if this record is any indication, we should expect many fascinating dream-like vistas to come.