A couple months back, I sat in on a stillstream.com listening party for the release of Chrysalis, the new release from Chronotope Project. At the time I only caught the last two tracks, but as I was listening I found myself looking forward to taking the time to make a deep dive into Jeffrey Ericson Allen’s latest. Turns out the wait was worth it, as Chrysalis has revealed itself as easily one of the best releases I’ve heard this year. In these five tracks the listener gets a blend of downtempo, spacemusic, and textbook ambient, fused together with Allen’s classical training. (He cites Debussy as a strong influence.) That last aspect shines through in the tight structures and progressions throughout, like the use of an ostinato phrase (and I will confess I cribbed that from his website) in soft chime-like tones that forms the bedrock of the opening, title track. That sort of solid, near-linear musical mindset gels perfectly with the vaporous and boundless freedom of his ambient structures, and complements the composer’s intricate patterns when he shifts into a Berlin-like space. Without meaning to sound fawning, you know you’re in good sonic hands pretty much from the first note, and remain so, without a bump, until the last. Headphone listening is an absolute must in order to catch Allen’s intricate detail work. There is a point in the beautiful drift of “L’Avenue Du Ciel” where he mixes together a field recording of water, crystalline glissandi, and a coolly pulsing sequencer bass line for a stretch that is simply mesmerizing. It’s a pleasure to listen how Allen manipulates these sounds within your headspace, keeping them moving like living entities. “Trance-Missions” is a 25-minute joyride that reminds me of Erik Wollo’s work in its snappy sequencer trails and sighing chords. I like the way this expands and contracts as it moves, shifting from its initial broad and spacious drifts to tightly packed rhythm-fueled passages and then back out. A deeply immersive space. “Reflecting Pool” eases into the disc’s most ambient flow, beginning with tones like meditation chimes, the sounds rippling outward. Quiet tonal phrases lend some solidity to the feel, warm string pads float through, and a sense of pure calm just descends over the piece. Guitar at the outset of the last track, “Eternity’s Sunrise,” comes as a pleasant surprise. Here, Allen says, he turns to Debussy for the structure, eventually opening into “…a slow psychedelic sunrise–so Debussy plus Moody Blues.” Once again, his layers build to an elegant and headphone-worthy depth, and there is more of that expert blend of restraint and release, of the mathematical and the organic. This is the piece that made me look forward to this disc back at the listening party.
Chrysalis is a stunning piece of work. It sounds fresh each time you listen to it, and offers nearly immeasurable depth. It seems like there’s always something new to hear, a new place to be taken. Kudos to Jeffrey Ericson Allen. This is a standout recording. I recommend visiting Allen’s web site to read his interview with Blake Gibson. There’s a lot of insight to be gained.
Available from Relaxed Machinery.