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John Chantler
Tomorrow is Too Late Nick Roseblade , November 7th, 2019 12:26

Commissioned by Ina-GRM, John Chantler's new album on Room40 deftly deploys space and silence, finds Nick Roseblade

Go and look at the sea. Go on. I’ll wait…

OK, now direct your eye between the horizon and shore. Pick out a wave and try and follow it all the way to shore. Notice how it gets more defined the nearer it comes to shore, and is at its strongest just at it connects with the land and mingles with the last wave to hit the shore. Now put on John Chantler’s album Tomorrow is Too Late. At first the music feels abstract with hardly anything to latch on to. Then, almost from nowhere, the noises form into huge captivating undulating rhythms, before gently fading into the ether again.

The album consists of two 20 minute slabs of music, ‘Tomorrow is Too Late’ and ‘We’re Always at the End’. Each track is made up of four parts. While each part is its own standalone movement, combined they create a larger work that has its own narrative and feel. It’s fun to read a random Sandman comic, but only through the context of reading within the larger body of work does it all make sense. ‘Tomorrow is Too Late’ is the more diaphanous of the two. After starting out airy it slowly builds to a crescendo in ‘Tomorrow is Too Late (Part Three)’ where Chantler lets rip and, through the use of frequency, creates something visceral. It doesn’t last long and ‘Tomorrow is Too Late (Part Four)’ is a slow descent into the fug. ‘We’re Always at the End’ starts off more abrasive and glitchy. Slightly bouncy and mechanical motifs appear and reappear, giving a much needed sense of movement. The star of the album is ‘We’re Always at the End (Part Two)’. By the time it gets up to full speed it is a wonky monster and the album feels totally different from the minimal workouts of ‘Tomorrow is Too Late’. This is part of the album’s charm. At no time do you know what Chantler is going to do next. What starts off serene could very well sound like a chamber of Dante’s Inferno the next. At times it feels like a reworking of Vangelis’ classic, but misunderstood, album Beauborg, but here instead of going for sheer noisy power Chantler peppers sections of ‘We’re Always at the End’ with shimmering melodies.

Tomorrow is Too Late was commissioned by INA GRM to be performed at their 2018 festival. INA GRM is known for asking their performers to explore, and compose, with audacity and freedom. It explains why the two tracks here are so free. Throughout the album there are constant drones and pulses, but Chantler’s use of space and silence is the most impressive element of Tomorrow is Too Late. Instead of bombarding us with an unrelenting sea of electronic noises, Chantler instead uses the sound sparingly, like a painter who has a limited amount of one colour and uses it to emphasise their point. Here the silence is used to make us contemplate what has gone before, giving us a slight relief, before he continues again on his sonic excursions.

While tomorrow might be too late, now is as good a time as any to play this album.