Chartreuse: No More Paths to Sounder Sleep
Thor's Rubber Hammer

Drew Smith's CV includes drumming stints for punk and thrash-metal bands in and around his Athens, Georgia home base but his Chartreuse debut is light years removed from anything remotely resembling such music. Instead, No More Paths to Sounder Sleep plunges the listener into fifty-six minutes and five tracks of trance-inducing dronescapes generated from electric guitar, organ, strings, loops, voice samples, and assorted other hazy materials. In the aptly-titled opener “Smolder,” sounds blur into a slowly drifting mass where instruments intermittently move to the forefront without disrupting the overall shape. Time suspension's the order of the day and, with sufficient immersion, the piece's nineteen minutes float by with dispatch. The ending is especially nice: instead of opting for a simple fade, Smith cedes the closing minutes to largely unadorned electric guitar shudder.

Apparently early Chartreuse demos suggested kinship with Fripp & Eno's early collaborations but the material on No More Paths to Sounder Sleep more often exemplifies a stronger affinity for Stars of the Lid and Eluvium; “Triage,” for example, includes deep funereal tones of the kind one might encounter on And Their Refinement of the Decline while the multi-layered flow of glassy guitar shimmer and echo treatments that comprises “Gale of Porcelain” could easily land in the middle of Talk Amongst the Trees without anyone batting an eye . The two-chord organ drone “Sardis Television Broadcasting System” peppers its thirteen minutes with the punctuating rhythm of soft clatter and piano and guitar fragments before “Cerulean Sky and Ancient Sea” guides us home on a vaporous cloud of becalmed bliss. If there's any knock against No More Paths to Sounder Sleep, it's obviously its derivative quality. But despite the fact that the Chartreuse sound isn't wholly unfamiliar, the album remains a solid collection of ambient moodscaping that should strongly appeal to genre devotees.

December 2008