Review: Raven Chacon – An Anthology of Chants Operations (Ouidah, Oct 2)

“Deeply introspective, Chacon’s work rests at the root meaning and intention of experimental practice. It is the outcome of an action that, at its inception, responds to a question for which the answer is unknown. In his hands, sound is a raw, democratic material, with a near infinite number of possibilities and sources—sometimes found and encountered, others self-generated—reformed into an image that refract the notions of humanity and being outside of themselves.”

This short paragraph does more to properly introduce the sonic tour-de-force that is An Anthology of Chants Operations than I probably ever could. Rarely does one hear a work so intensely devoted to the primordial traditions of “sound art”—installation, performance instructions, constrained improvisations—and yet still so personal and emotionally resonant, beyond the “pure,” textural beauty of the sounds themselves. I highly recommend digging deeper into the write-up on the release’s Bandcamp page, as it offers titles and astute description-analysis captions for each of the LP’s nine pieces, which together unfold like episodic suites despite being composed or conceived separately. The territory Raven Chacon explores here is immense (almost as immense as the breadth of his work across countless other art forms): intimate, almost abrasive physicality; sustained meditation; innocence, tentativeness, cultural disconnect (“MVHS”); collage and combination; the list goes on. Violent rushes of air forced from an unknown source, twittering squeaks and bubbling warbles land somewhere squarely between artifice and nature, discrete but sprightly cacophonies of rustling tendrils swarm a space as tectonic shifts groan ominous below. Rather than homing in creatively on a limited formal or stylistic focus, Chacon looks to them all to find the most effective outlet for what he wants to do—and succeeds each and every time. An Anthology of Chants Operations sees the Diné artist at the peak of his powers in the auditory plane.

“Filled with life, vitality, and the curiosity that follows, Raven Chacon’s An Anthology of Chants Operations presents a wildly expanded and revitalized notion of experimental practice that stretches far beyond the potentialities within which it is normatively conformed. A deeply human music, asking after the effects of place on who we are.” (again, better than I could ever do)