John Chantler Tomorrow Is Too Late

[Room40; 2019]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: synth, ambient, minimalism, experimental music
Others: Jason Lescalleet, James Rushford, Gaby Losoncy, M. Geddes Gengras

Culled from John Chantler’s 2018 GRM Studios residency sessions on a 1966 François Coupigny Synthesizer (restored to 14 of its original 24 modules), the artist could be forgiven if the engagement didn’t produce an oeuvre-worthy recording. Luckily, this one-time drummer/BoC fan found a way to learn the Coupigny on a modest but rigorously enthralled curve. He excels on Tomorrow Is Too Late with an artfully mixed approach of manipulation and bearing witness. The sound progressions, only faintly melodic, piff and wisp like delicately-coaxed expulsions of some fine dusty particulate on long beds of nerve-tingling tone. While this sort of intrigue won’t necessarily bowl over other Room40 artists/collaborators or followers of Chantler’s work of some 20 years, it does make a strong case for itself beyond its somewhat academic origin.

These two side-long, patch-herded edits have the feel of something with sides, but they are too unsettled. It almost has the stagnant curve of a rocky bike path, but those pedal pumps too often slip out to jettisoned limbs and shit-canned equilibrium. But rather than some infinitely obliterated oblivion, Tomorrow Is Too Late works as a too-tight purgatory of questionable warmth. A warmth that is needed but nonetheless clouding a greater need in the process. The experience, then, is not unlike if hundreds of alarm clocks of different styles and vintages were sounding off in a giant vat of goo. In this light, the murkily alarming album is something of a queasy proposition, but one immaculately proposed.

Aside from reaffirming a characteristically keen sense of spatial awareness, Chantler here distills both heightened anticipation and the slow, many-rivuleted color drain of its comedown. In contrast to the aforementioned irksome warmth, there is at times also a sharp chill to the release, wherein the sound seems to beckon from over monstrous barriers to the very vast remove that it has flung its receiver into. The shift from these frustrated, unbalanced states is imperceptible enough to make Tomorrow is Too Late feel unplaceably essential. A dizzying time scrambler that belies both a reverence for this canonized innovation of his chosen instrument and an intrepid inclination to push offshore with it.

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