EDIT 15/02/09 At some point, Choc changed this album's title, cover and song titles, which somehow resulted in Jamendo's mp3 player linking to a completely different artist and album. I've amended this review accordingly. Apologies for any confusion caused. Think yourself lucky - I still put my underpants on back to front. Mind you, at least it means I get an extra day's wear out of them to add to the original two days: normal, inside-out and back-to-front. Don't look at me like that - it's called being ecologically sound. *sniffs* Ah, sexy fresh.
I first heard Choc's work at the music production website KVR, where his Mimesis Algorithm knocked the dregs from my clay pipe. It's a click 'n' cut track, full of atmospheric glitches, with a sparse but effective piano and cello accompaniment. The clincher is the bridge, which is the sound of a modem firing up; in the context of the track, it's perfect. If you have a friend who likes classical music but isn't too keen on contemporary stuff, or vice versa, point them to Mimesis Algorithm. I don't think it's available for downloading at present, but you can still hear it at Choc's MySpace.
All of which leads me to Choc's highly downloadable four-track EP, Urban Solstice, available at Jamendo. But first, a haiku:
All free, no hidden charges
Jamendo calls you
Learn to say this in one breath and repeat it to friends and acquaintances. Your procreation will soar as people discover how cool you are. Back to the review:
Choc is a Frenchman who works in signal processing, statistics and telecommunication, making him eminently suited, I would have thought, to produce ambient electronica. To quote the man himself: "Urban Solstice is a collection of four songs composed in 2004-5 which reflect the universe of a fictive city." The album could be classified as "industrial ambient minimal" because intimate clanks (oxymoronic, I concede) and rhythmic thumps and thuds abound. Now, I could easily kick a dustbin downstairs and claim to be an ambient artist; the only difference between Choc and me is that he's composed addictive music whereas my effort would still sound like a dustbin being kicked down a staircase. I don't know how he manages to convey emotion through abstract sounds, but I'm happy to listen in dumb admiration.
First off, Choc gently prises your ears open with Industrial Resurrection. Imagine listening to the world's biggest glass harp being played inside a Tibetan monastery's boiler room and you'll get the idea.
Bit Synthesis introduces a pulsing bass and a flapping (yes, really) kick drum with feisty interruptions from what sounds like a short-circuiting fusebox. Most high frequency sounds are filtered out, giving the music a muffled feel befitting the track's title. It ends with a heartbeat, Pink Floyd fans.
The third track, Chaos Indus-nat, finds us among leaking pipes, their echoing drips slowly increasing in frequency until we stumble upon a hard-working computer terminal. It's like exploring a sewage system, but in a good way. I release that last sentence under a Creative Commons licence. Do with it what you will.
Digital Clock follows a classic electronica recipe: glitchy drums, smooth synths and a bit-crushed ending. Like the rest of the EP, I'm sure it contains a subliminal "keep listening" message.
It's perfectly possible to listen to this album while cruising the streets of GTA 4's New York. But I warn you, you might have to pull over, switch the engine off and recline your seat. Let others investigate the city; you're busy exploring sound. And, although it's optional, you could always put something in Choc's parking meter.
Choc - Urban Solstice (link to individual mp3s and zipped album)