Richard Chartier: A Field for Mixing

In his own works and in the material issued on his Line label, Richard Chartier has come to be associated with a severely rigorous brand of micro-sound minimalism. If any one artist's recordings could be said to symbolize the ‘headphones listening' experience, Chartier's name would be at the top of the list, as hearing it otherwise would be equivalent to missing out on a large percentage of a given piece's content. A Field For Mixing, his seventy-minute ROOM40 release, is as good a representation of his work as any, with its two settings, the title track and “A Desk For Mixing,” dedicated to Steve Roden and William Basinski, respectively.

In “A Field For Mixing,” Chartier delicately weaves processed field recordings of small and large spaces (open and enclosed) captured in multiple locales in Australia, Japan, Europe, and North America into a fifty-minute whole. He strips away the original recordings' particularizing details in order to produce an entirely novel and de-contextualized acoustic space—a simulacrum, in essence. Muffled accents intone within a subdued aural stream that hews to a restricted dynamic range in order to maintain an evenly pitched flow. Industrial and natural sounds emerge in equal measure—the air filled with the faint sounds of traffic, dogs barking, birds, crickets, footsteps, voices, electrical drones, and machinery noise—in a journey that moves between indoor settings teeming with cavernous echo and the spacious outdoors.

Based on a site-specific installation work titled “Mixing Desk” presented at the Montalvo Art Centre in 2006, the even more restrained “A Desk For Mixing” alternates between hazy tonal surges and softly rattling static. In its persistent exhale, there's a lilting ebb and flow to the piece that proves calm-inducing. One can't help but draw parallels between its restful rise and fall and the similarly peaceful state one enters during non-REM sleep.

June 2010