Stuart Chalmers ‘Daydream Empire’ – album review

Daydream Empire

Stuart Chalmers ‘Daydream Empire’ (LF Records)
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Maybe it’s because I reviewed both the recent Merzbow and the previous Hinterlandt albums; but since that point I seem to be getting sent a disproportionate amount of what can only be described as ‘difficult’ music to review.

Stuart Chalmers is one such artist; initially inspired by his attendance on a Sound Engineering & Music Technology course at the Birmingham Academy of Sound, he began using computers to create his own sound; he then discovered experimental music and then by chance the Cube Orchestra an improvising anti-orchestra; this exposure led him to use electronics, tapes, field recordings, pedals and contact microphones when recording; Chalmers has previously released previous albums via Fbox Records and ZamZam Records, and has performed at venues such as Cafe Oto in London and the Modern Art Gallery in Oxford.

‘Daydream Empire’ compiles eleven sound passages; the album artwork does not list individual titles, nor does the LF Records site, however a little rummaging around via Soundcloud elicited both a explanation and titles for just four of the compositions, and a sound extract;

Do we live our lives really in the here and now?
How can you tell that you are not living in your own mental constructs instead of this wonderful mystery?

Track 4/5 Secret Miracles/Theatre Of The Absurd
Tracks 8/9 Thought Patterns/ Melting Of Time

The eleven pieces were created, recorded and then edited in the summer of 2011; for anyone expecting or even hoping for what they previously understood to be music i.e. verse, chorus, breakdown, verse etc they are in for a shock. Chalmers manipulates captured sound, to call it a collage would be to belittle the obvious countless hours that he has invested in creating these pieces – to many his efforts would be dismissed as mere noise, and unstructured noise at that. However as the multitude of sounds wash over you, you do find yourself both trying to identify the source, be it geographic which has a North African feel to it; at least when the deeply unsettling crying female subsides and then trying to understand the time changes, the patterns, some of which are based on mere repetition of just a few lost sounds.

Chalmers found sounds when brought together, even those that juxtapose somehow blend to create a sound that despite being digital in nature is organic and yet ambient; the captured telephone exchange messages overlaid upon the sound of Morlocks playing the Eraserhead soundtrack whilst being unnerving and at times confrontational still manages to engage, and to stir emmotions, there is just so much going within these recording – I’m sure the recently deceased Michael Winner makes an appearance during ‘Secret Miracles’, in fact no, I’m damn sure we all appear within this recording hidden behind distorted electronics, and mutant radio transmissions from outer galaxies.

Stuart Chalmers is one of the premier tape collagists operating right now and ‘Daydream Empire’ is his most out-there statement to date.


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