The world of art rock is always a hard one. There’s always the camp that says that if you’re being kitschy enough, you can get away with anything. Then there’s another camp that will be staunch supporters of technical/virtuoso players. Then there’s the last camp, the one you won’t hear much about as they are busy doing music instead of picking it up apart in discussion boards and the misinformation they picked up from Wikipedia.
So… Charalambides. 20 years of career (and no Cameron Crowe documentary?). It matters not. They (the duo of Tom and Christina Carter) need no visual enhancements, their newest album Exile is all about the auditory experience.
If pressed to describe it as something, it would be : desert ambient. Not a genre, mind you, it’s just those desolate sounds you get when you think of an arid stretch of land. I’m thinking of the Tampico-Ciudad Mante highway, but that’s me, choose any desert highway. The wide, open spaces. The stretches of asphalt waving the air due to heat convection. All those sparse thoughts are like the carefully laid guitar work of Charalambides .
‘Autumn leaves’ and ‘Before you go’ are the two tracks that made me think of a desert analogy. Yes, it was. The way ‘Before you go’ starts like a very quiet, minimal song and then drones into a very grumpy leviathan of a track (yes, loved it) it’s a good example of the sounds (and beautiful sound atmospheres) that Charalambides weaves through 8 tracks (or 10 if you bought the vinyl – lucky devil).
This is an album that requires two things from you and this is the important bit: Patience and your total attention. 4 tracks go over the ten minute track. Parts of some songs might sound like a lost solo from Hell coming through your speakers (‘Into the Earth’ – great solo) and some of Christina‘s vocals can be as haunting (or soothing) as your disposition might make you receive them.
It might seem like music you could be writing to or as background while reading. Unless you are into Exquisite Corpse or reading Burroughs (what wasn’t he smoking?), you’d be better with earphones and a good landscape (park, sunset through the window, public transport stuck in the rain, take yer pick).
8 tracks. Almost 74 minutes of a tapestry of sounds offered to you by Charalambides, two musicians with a penchant for art and liberty.