Album Review: Chaircrusher — Balsamic Remora

As the title track of Balsamic Remora buzzes its way through tessellations of sound, one thing’s for certain: You’re never going to hear the same thing twice. I listened through Chaircrusher’s latest EP for the first time while driving along I-80, senses dulled by the mundanity of endless fields and the occasional telephone wire. My perception soon became revitalized as I was consumed by a rhythmic bassline and musings of geometric shapes collapsing, colliding and rebuilding themselves again.

Plus, I could dance to it.

This process of descension, stillness and eventual transformation is a consistent theme through Balsamic Remora — fitting, considering how it all began. It’s been just over 20 years since the original version of this EP was born. The recording was cut short when Opcode Vision software crashed, taking the project with it. Thanks to recovery from cassette tape, as well as collaborations with Andrew Duke, Brendan Hanks and Derek Piotr, it has found new life.

With its initial chirps and ascending rhythms, it’s easy for one to slip into the nostalgia of ’80s electro pop. But as melodic rivers of sound intertwine and send you spinning through a gleaming vortex of experimental static, house beats unveil themselves and transcend into modern territory.

Transitions between songs are subtly indicated by distorted fuzz that fades and echoes into the next rhythm. Just as the repetitions of one sample become familiar, a new melody manifests. Thoughts of shapes and structure continue into the aptly titled “Cubes,” but it’s the consistent, throbbing bass that shines through in this track. The string instruments that swim underneath the chorus become especially pleasing, even surprising.

The collaborations that follow represent a kaleidoscope of ambient dials and beeps, with sharp tones slicing and reverberating through the air, and voices sputtering to the shimmering fade of a synth line.

Balsamic Remora is altogether unexpected and familiar, calming and rejuvenating. It’s the wind chimes blowing in the breeze at night beneath the porch of a loved one’s home. It’s that dusty, old arcade game that still fires up like new, bleating a hyperactive theme song on the menu screen. It’s that moment when the awkwardness slips away at a party, and all you can do is dance.

The EP concludes with the original 1997 track, leaving the listener to revel in all that it’s evolved into — an innovative project that effectively repurposed its predecessor.

Editor’s Note: Chaircrusher is a project by Kent Williams, a long-time contributor to Little Village.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 236.

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