ISOLDE – All Things To Fall Like Marching Men

Penny Poppet

The duo of Robin Barnes and Andrew Chalk, Isolde represent one of the several examples of untainted creativity typical of the English area of exploration where mystery, melancholy and concreteness meet, as if the musicians were trying to depict the course of existence with all its gradations of awareness and forgetfulness, everything occurring under a next-to-downpour sky.

Two crucial elements, more or less present everywhere, constitute the groundwork of this CD. On the one hand, field recordings of birds and other creatures from the woods apparently taped in nocturnal settings, their extended pseudo-wailings seemingly defining a substratum of sufferance. These sounds are unquestionably not soothing, rather evoking the consciousness of being gone astray somewhere without a chance of returning home. The second critical constituent is the stable presence of the electric guitars, recorded warts and all – probably via microphones placed quite distant from the amplifiers, whose hum is nevertheless audible at times – in a room shaped and sized to exalt their slight detuning, thus generating waves of conflicting upper partials and grey-tinged metallic resonances that add a degree of ambiguity to an already difficult-to-fathom soundscape.

What is evident since the very beginning is a mutilation of commonly accepted meanings, an unrealistic yet extremely crude representation of coincidences that might be lucky or terrible, the will immobilized by a raw sensation of daze that appears both infatuating and grotesque. A house of mirrors that gives back the distorted image of illusions ready to be destroyed by an unending gloominess. This crippled aesthetic is strikingly hard to accept but once we penetrate the essence of this inhospitable music, the realization of something important that’s there to be picked up and preserved in the depths of our fortitude immediately occurs.

Fascinatingly unfriendly, deeply significant reflections by a pair of artists whose seriousness remains distant from suspicion, an unfinished beauty calling out remote sympathies. We need more items like this to replace the fake assurances of inexistent sunrises auspicated by releases where the initial splendour vanishes the morning after.

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