Seemingly bred in the darkest depths of the psyche and shadows, Chalk White Nights from Stranger by Starlight is an album which explores and takes the senses and imagination to places they do not necessarily want to go and maybe did not even know existed within their once safe worlds. It is a potent intrusive confrontation that leaves the listener exhausted, haunted, but irresistibly drawn to its heavy noir persuasion.
The result of the coming together of the creative ingenuity of composer Anthony Saggers a.k.a. Stray Ghost (plus White Lace and Tender Prey) and experimental-rock pioneers Oxbow vocalist Eugene S. Robinson, the Bad Paintings released exploration is a continual journey through troublesome atmospheres with a sinister underbelly and a voracious stark hunger which works visually and mentally upon the mind. The perfect soundtrack to a premise like the game/film Max Payne or the comic book Hellblazer, it is also a sonic narrative to the blackest reaches and corners of life. Chalk White Nights is a mix of tantalising temptation and destructive uncomfortable confrontation which will seduce some and scare off others, and certainly if someone is mentally standing upon a tower block with their only seeming option being to take that step over the edge, this album is best avoided.
Consisting of five lingering consuming tracks, Chalk White Nights opens with the dawning almost church like synth whispers of The Nights of No Sleep with Robinson soon after wrapping his pained narrative gently but richly around the chilling ambience. Managing to be expansive yet isolated to a narrow breath, the track is a resonating overpowering taunt with Raymond Chandler like detective chills permeating the streetlight lit noir clad street and thoughts he sculpted with his words. It is a startling and unsettling encounter which perfectly hints at the album as a whole and leaves emotions in two minds whether to hide or embrace the incitement.
Beautiful Boy with a Stone moves off from the same breath of its predecessor, the pair kin with a central angst core which is expressed and taken into separate realms and sorrowful sonic paintings. Once more the vocals of Robinson sink easily within the emotive icy climes of the keys, their presence magnetic and distrustful with the vocals at times slipping from mental clarity into almost bedlamic spawned expulsions of passion. There is beauty and mordant charm to the song whilst its successor An Organist is pungent sonic sourness immersed within cavernous washes of keys veined by the continually absorbing vocal presentation of Robinson. The track is like a ‘talking book’, voice and sounds creating a brooding and intensifying web of danger and intimidation aligned to reflection and black tales.
The dramatic poise of The Red Print offers up the next venture of dark physical and mental rooms, its murderous narrative upon another climactic brewing of energy, emotional manipulation, and darkly hued scenes a foreboding pleasure and seductive fear. As across the album the track is a masterful portrait of dark times and crimes but especially here bringing greater menace and pressure on the emotions to bear whilst Robinson like a dark preacher recounts his darkly coated message within a beautifully melancholic string woven cloud.
The album is completed by A Black Cat, a track which is like an epilogue brought from a time ahead to the previous body of the narrative and another reflective boil of intensity which creates a tempest of squalling vocals and energy that is sheer manna. It is an exceptional storm upon ears and thoughts which ebbs and flows ruggedly within a plateau of sonic provocation and suggestion which verges at times on indigestible but is still devoured greedily. It is a stunning end to a staggering release which you can only hope is the first of many from the collaborators.
It maybe is not an easy companion at times but Chalk White Nights is one of the most rewarding and creative encounters heard in quite a while. A must investigate blackness for all.
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