Review: CHAGO – Maseira (self-released, Aug 19)

To any of the select but noisy few who claim that the musical side of the avant-garde is losing its edge or running thin on the confrontational spectacle of old, I have plenty of counterexamples to present from this year alone: Barn Sour’s Belgian Gelding, Bent Duo’s Ramble, Human Heads’ In the Afternoon, etc. Not much unites these singular works of utter subversion other than fleeting, ephemeral similarities in texture, tone, tension—but something even more abstract they all share is an enigmatic yet assured conceptual and/or emotional deliberateness in even the most profoundly alien of the outer orbital reaches of musical convention. Maseira, as of now the only release from anonymous Berlin project CHAGO, belongs in this conversation as well; though its deepest origins lie in electronic music, both industrial and dance (as the “tracky bottoms tucked in socks” on the cover might imply—although what may or may not be a classic Reebok is submerged in water, an immediate and telling invocation of discomfort), what actually occurs throughout this suite of fifteen unnamed tracks is much, much stranger. Armed with basic digital synth patches, field recordings, and recipes for electroacoustic contortions that shred those past two elements into queasy loops and sharp, twisted slices of nigh-unintelligible sound. Chattering, slobbering speed-shifts in parts 2 and 3 resemble a pen of ravenous hogs, and then later on in 8 we hear the abrasive bleats and squeals of actual livestock. Thin, sickly traces of movement and melody begin to surface in 10 and 11, mezzanine reverb hisses and haunting plasticity enclosing them in frail but fatal embrace, a slow, delicate decay culminating in the bleak tedium of 15: cold metallic tinctures, subdued incessance, lateral swathes of sputtering concrète like Joseph Hammer raking his magnetic tape dental floss across a gunked-up reel-to-reel head. This is excellent and satisfyingly bizarre stuff that will (and probably should) slip under many radars… if interested, tune to the forbidden frequency.

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