CHAS SMITH – Nakadai

Originally released as a vinyl LP on Arc Light in 1987, Nakadai‘s reissue came out in 2008 with the addition of two bonus tracks, but was received only recently in this house. As I’m writing, it’s spinning for the fourth time in 12 hours – and my heart and brain are spiraling, too. Chas Smith is among the mavericks who have managed to create a personal niche, his work with pedal steel, self-built instruments and sonic sculptures legendary. He does not saturate the market with recordings: each record symbolizes a wonderfully uncommon daydream through which one might put a finger on that part of the inner nature that suggests the correct behavior when the world proposes the exact opposite. A music of solitude, of utter awareness, a soundtrack for the struggle of the few sensitive humans remained – those we desperately look for, unsuccessfully – against daily mediocrity. Sounds that fuel the necessity of what Pauline Oliveros would define as “deep listening”.

Either via superimposed guitars or with the help of other musicians on tuned percussion (in this case Bob Fernandez, John Fitzgerald, M.B. Gordy and Theresa Knight) Smith treats the listener with majestic swells of indefinitely echoing harmonies, adjacent chords that flutter and waver in completely suspended, continuously morphing tonalities. Clouds of intangible pitches gradually extend their effect on the surrounding environment, then make a way into the most invulnerable resistances of our individual psychophysical equipment. They shift in the air and move us within, putting in touch with a hypothetically clearer reality that we still hope to reach sometimes. Once the music’s over, though, that certainty returns in the obscure realms of nonexistence, and we’re unable to recollect ourselves for a while.

Despite the total difference of the initial sources, these pieces frequently recall the discerning complexity of Roland Kayn’s breathtaking visions, bringing back that state of grief-stricken realization of something inaccessible that can just be intuited and wished for. A sort of prelude for the phase that’s going to come after life, when those who really understood – people who teach by remaining in silence, talk with a hint of the eyes and make their essence resound without the need of bombast – will be turned into another kind of energy, hopefully similar to the untainted vibrations elicited by Smith’s marvelous creations.

Cold Blue

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