Loren Chasse & Michael Northam
The Otolith
CD HMS 014

December 2008
by Max Schaefer

On The Otolith, surreal imagery shares lyrical roomspace with the ebb and flow of ruffled sounds stolen from countless trails traversed between 2003 and 2006. Michael Northam's nomadic lifestyle has figured in his recordings for some time now—here remnants of his time in Estonia, Battery Townsley, Epesses, Gorge de Veveyse de Fegire, and Bruxelles are displayed prominently. Loren Chasse, on the other hand, plays the oud, autoharp, bowed wires, harmonium, bells and gongs. As the album opens up both play to their respective strengths while now and again making fleeting forays into each others dimensions. It begins with a dust-dry ambient buzz that slowly increases in volume and intensity on “The Broken House”, looping and spinning around itself to form a cobwebbed tunnel of abstract cacophony. “Spinning Cloth” throws the proceedings back into a richly textured fug of javelin rain and the whirring of electronic wasp wings. Henceforth the disc wends through enough detours to retain its primal sense of otherness, while always remaining delicately balanced, abstract and austere. A ghostly snatch of field recordings grow gritty and cluttered on certain works, spread out and fuse into a variety of shifting hums and drones on others, or else stand out as crackles of sonic percussion in relatively sleek, seductive, and moderately unstable arrangements. The duo remains forever faithful to a calmness of spirit, and accordingly the changes that arise are never especially bold, but spontaneity and meaningful dialogue are always held high. A sustained structural tension is held between these two husks, resulting in a wealth of tiny incidents that slowly draw in the listener's environment. In a manner not dissimilar to some of Tarkovsky's films, these tenuous pieces bore a hole directly in the atmosphere