David Toop - Black Chamber

Now this is interesting. David Toop, perhaps better known for his contributions to the Wire magazine and his book on Hip Hop has released over the years a number of records, most in the vein of electro-acoustic and experimental electronics. Here he presents us with a remarkable slice of electro-acoustic soundtrack like electronics that could compete with any of the current elite electronic artist and composers. Black Chamber is a loose concept revolving round a Japanese emperors secret kitchen in his palace where he would sneak off and bathe in his own culinary delights. Thus the music contained here often has an eastern flavour (pardon the pun) to it. Beginning with Soft cavities a sharp pure tone greets us to the Black Chamber followed by squirming electronics and elasticised field recordings. A solid rhythm is maintained with twanging electronic bass. An improvised saxophone accompaniment complete an excellent first track.

Waxed skin is a similar workout with more attention to texture and mood. Light keyboard riffs and flickering glitchy effects couple with subtle atmospherics. Apartment thunder (Erosandsacrifice) is a very soundtrack like excursion utilising mutated classical recordings and short samples of voices. This has a very tense atmosphere somewhat foreboding, as the collage of distant calls, dreamlike ambience and electronics swirl around you. A reference point for me would be the first caretaker album on Vvm records, with which this track shares a similar disembodied feel. Raw mouth shape is more of a classic musique concrete workout consisting mainly of short percussive and noisy objects, and more swirling glitch. Silver birds is a short track combining field recordings of what sounds like a market with livestock running around. This track acts as an entry point to the albums standout track Plume preceded by far off inside (Strange grammar but hey) wonderfully understated and layered, centred around another floaty saxophone improv but accompanied by a myriad of electronic and acoustic parts. Cascading synths in a far off room, half heard voices and barely audible rhythmic bass. If a sequel to blade runner was made this would be great as part of the soundtrack. This track like most of the music here has a strange undercurrent of tension and fear, like impending doom. No more is this more evident than on the track strangely titled Ill faced doll Aozameta Omozashi Ni Katadorare. Here ghostly female chants and Japanese male spoken word combine with a set of even more tense electronic and percussive textures.

Gored Fig Sacs is a track similar to Silver birds, with the elements made up of field recordings of birds and nature. Blind eel princess is a track with a very eastern vibe. Some identified string instruments are being plucked and stroked to produce a more meditative atmosphere. But the tension is maintained with slow mournful violin and charged static and other electronic elements. Poison Incense is another Musique concrete track, squeaking and flickering with wooden objects and the occasional tonal incision. The slapping gun features more squealing saxophone and textured atmospherics. Other instruments such as flutes are also employed. An interesting element is that far back in the mix you can hear parts of Apartment Thunder (Erosandsacrifice) as if that track was sound tracking some event occurring down the street. This interesting approach is comparable to the ideas behind Roger Doyle’s Babel where the music acts as a narrative for a huge tower city with many entry points, thus elements are sometimes re-experienced from different perspectives. Life in the folds is the third of the tracks made up of field recordings at only 35 seconds loge it acts only as a bridge to the albums stunning finale Black Chamber. If the tension throughout the album was hidden beneath the surface, on the final track is rears up like some terrifying leviathan. Wonderfully cinematic strings and an evocative almost post rock like guitar strumming. The track is driven along by a simple thumping bass hit. The narrative aspect of this work cannot be understated. perhaps the emperors kitchen is in fact a hell kitchen cooking up the fires of an urban nightmare. Whatever the truth this album is one hell of a trip.