James Wegg Review – Chvad SB “Crickets Were the Compass” (2014)

It’s a dog’s life, so what’s the hurry?

In another remarkable coincidence regarding the luck of the draw for our CD reviews (live events seldom work out that way except hearing three performances of Beethoven’s Overture to Lenora No.3 in Ottawa within the span of a few days in the ‘70s), how curious indeed to find a pair of albums written in homage to special beings. Perhaps there is no better way to honour a loved one than to create music that will outlive us and be immediately accessible to all those who choose to hear.

Having become familiar with composer/performer Chvad’s talents thanks to the filmmaking skills of Elias (cross-reference below), it only seemed natural to sample this 55-minute work and learn more.

Unlike Daniel Detrick, whose post-composition, 10-line poem tellingly served as the “names” for each movement, Chvad’s poetry informs the titles for each of the six sections (the complete text becomes the production’s entire program note).

“It Haunts Her” immediately sets the tone for the electronic, digital soundscape that lies ahead with its throbbing, pulsating power, angry pedal and a few bits of childlike “ding, dong” that describe many facets of the dearly departed’s personality and—ironically—shared comfort in silence.

“A Hair Before Sundown” is immediately awash in cascading waves of distortion anchored by a low, tolling beat. A few sweeping whooshes are drily contrasted with chips of woodblock, then a metallic tune also finds its inner child if not its flaxen hair. This day closes with a touch of monotony.

A welcome breath of consonance ushers in “The Dust Cloud Permeates” before yielding to electronic granules served upon an austere aural canvas. On several occasions a high-pitched guitar pics its way into prominence, briefly rekindling the “ding dong” motif, becoming more agitated before slipping back to rhythmic—relatively—insignificance. Everything gradually calms down, as if running out of gas, more fuelled by octaves than octane.

“People Keep Asking and I Say You’re Well” speaks chirpy volumes (heralding the finale, to come) as various motors roar to race-like life—the same old question, hardly a picture of health, is given a relentless, if melodic, answer until a glimpse of “The Last Post”—above a slow motion chorus—foreshadows anew as everything comes to quiet rest.

Here the incessant ostinato and equally unrelenting bass produce a hypnotic effect as “There Isn’t a Day That Goes By” unfolds. Two contrasting voices appear at different times, sprinkled in with some bits of “finger snaps” and ripping paper (or might that be a new leaf turned?). The result is absolutely, abstractly fascinating.

After so many forms and styles, :”Crickets Were the Compass and the World Goes ‘Round” feeds largely on a 6-repeated-note sequence that rises higher and higher—at times with crushed grace notes furthering the insect imagery—above the Gryllidae chattering classes. Given that natural cacophony, who would know where to turn when—at this thoughtful time for reflection—everything leads down the same path of heartfelt remembrance and loss?

As mesmerizing as the music can frequently be, a cinematic treatment might stretch its current “legs” further still.


Review originally published here:






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