The album alternates between atmospheric, lushly textured instrumental pieces and gorgeous ballads that feature Chenaux's warm, feather-stroke vocal melodies. In the press info, Chenaux says of the instrumentals, "They are not interludes. They are ballads with the same interests as the 'songs.'" I couldn't agree more. He's a deft, imaginative player, employing all kinds of techniques. On the instrumental "Simple/Frontal" he uses a bow and electronic effects to make his guitar sound like a phalanx of Hardanger fiddles, seething with harmonic richness and foggy resonance. It fits perfectly with a devastatingly pretty vocal tune like "Dull Lights (White or Grey)," which could be either a jazz standard or a soul classic; his overdubbed guitar parts include jazzy, neatly tangled fingerpicking and serene long tones that delineate the chord changes.
Throughout the collection Chenaux combines meticulous songcraft with experimental instincts, so no matter how pretty or tuneful a piece is, he adds compelling layers of noise and texture, shaped with an improviser's sense of adventure. And when one of the instrumentals pushes the envelope, like the searing eight-minute psych-out "Sliabh Aughty," he never loses his grip on compositional logic. Below you can hear the album's beautiful opening track, "Amazing Backgrounds."
Eric Chenaux, "Amazing Backgrounds"
photo: Eric Craven
Bob Brookmeyer, Bob Brookmeyer & Friends (Columbia/Legacy)
João Nogueira, João Nogueira (1972) (Odeon)
Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark (Asylum)
Junior Mance Trio, Junior's Blues (Riverside/OJC)
John Cale & Terry Riley, Church of Anthrax (Wounded Bird)