Chessie Dual Mode

[Lok Music; 2006]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: indie, electronic, ambient acoustic, dream pop
Others: Low, My Bloody Valentine, Oval, Mouse On Mars

Chessie, the locomotive-influenced duo of Stephen Gardner and Ben Bailes, opens 2006 with the release of Dual Mode, a five-song EP put out by the German Lok label consisting of three remixed tracks from 2001's Overnight LP, along with two new tracks.

For only being five songs, Dual Mode showcases a wide variety of styles, partly due to the nature of remixes and partly because Chessie's music brings an array of influences to the table. The EP opens with a new track, "Velvet," an apt name given the song's warm textures and dark tones and fitting for the nocturnal quality of the EP as a whole: what the Germans call Nachtmusik. Feedback reminiscent of a distant train whistle rolls in over a plane of sound, while in the right channel metallic blips and beeps run circles upon each other until a deep, fuzzy bass emerges out of the haze, soon attended by a lazily strummed guitar. This is music for lucid dreaming or space exploration: lulling, slow, steady, evoking the moon bleached pastures and woods one might be see from the passenger car of an overnight rail line.

The Dntel remix of "Eyes and Smiles" follows, an acoustic strummer accompanied by female vocals that rises into a lush, symphonic dronescape. Things take a sharp turn with the fried and frazzled remix of "Daylight" by Sutekh. The track pounds with a deep kick bass, flittering blips and rhythmic, up-tempo beeps and sounds little like the poppy groove of the original version. Sinisterly infectious, it sounds like listening to a techno tape burning. This is the most club-ready track on the EP, probably the most interesting track on the album, and its engaging intensity is a sharp contrast to the passive, spacey character of the other tracks. Perhaps that's where the EP's title comes in, describing a hybrid form of private transportation that functions either independently on roads like a car or by locking onto a guiding rail, allowing you to continue course on cruise control.

"The Century," the other new song, is the sole rocker of the bunch””and rock it does. It's an overdriven, anthemic fuzz ballad of heavy toms and pristine guitar melodies running through deep distortion. Wistful, yet uplifting, it's the liberating jam you hear the neighbor's band ripping in the basement on Sunday night while you're trying to sleep because you have work the next morning, and deep down you wish you were doing the ripping and not trying to sleep.

"3rd and K Pt. II" is a remix of the song "K Tower" by New York-based Basidium that amps up the atmospherics of the original and adds in a steady bass pulse about halfway through the song. The track shares some musical qualities with the first few minutes of Tortoise's "Djed," minus the bass line, but with spacey swells and arching tones reeling through thick synthesizer padding. This might be the least interesting track on the EP, but it's not a bad listen.
2006 may prove a big year for Chessie, as the band is currently working on a new LP due out later this year and also contributes to an upcoming Mia Doi Todd remix album available on the Plug Research label.

1. Velvet
2. Eyes and Smiles (DNTEL Remix)
3. Daylight (Sutekh Remix)
4.The Century
5. 3rd and K Pt. II ("K Tower" Basidium Remix)