Johnstone/Leamy/Garden: Chalk Dogs (Rattle/digital outlets)

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Johnstone/Leamy/Garden: Chalk Dogs (Rattle/digital outlets)

The previous album by Neil Johnstone (synths) and Sam Leamy (guitar) – with taonga puoro player Al Fraser – was the extraordinary Panthalassa which was a powerfully impressionistic series of pieces which conjured up the ancient, fathomless oceans of eons long gone.

It was, as we noted, so evocative as to be cinematic.

And it is little surprise that here – with producer/engineer Steve Garden on textures and treatment – is an album of equal weight and gravity which comes with a tie-in art exhibitions (see below).

Where Fraser's taonga puoro added an aura of mystery to Panthalassa, these soundscapes – while equally oceanic in their massive ebb and flow – are much darker and disturbing, more sonically and emotionally unsettling . . . as befits their inspiration.

In the typically handsome Rattle booklet (as always, designed by UnkleFranc) they explain that these soundscapes were created during the recent Covid lockdown and therefore have a deliberate sense of unease and uncertainty about them, and were inspired also by the debris which washes up on the foreshores around Wellington.

Depressed yet?

But these eerie, uncompromising and disconcerting sonic vistas move easily from moments of pause and almost intimacy to something approaching white noise, carrying the listener into and out of their aural imagination.

There are moments of strange beauty here where the mind can take flight as much as passages where the chaos and confusion of our current world is evoked as a dark and foreboding existence.

There is a remarkable plasticity of sound across Chalk Dogs where noise and texture coexist and move into new forms.

These six long pieces speak to and from the time of their creation and -- much like that detritus of our world which washes up at random on the coast – invoke a time out of joint and a planet teetering on the edge of destruction.

This is a dark but rewarding ride.

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You can find out more about this album at Rattle here and buy it from bandcamp here.

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