Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Chas Smith is one of the most unique musicians working today. In the spirit of Harry Partch, Smith has created his own musical world, complete with its own instruments and "language." Critics have repeatedly compared his sonically overpowering compositions to those of Ligeti. With Descent, Smith continues to create the great, clangorous textures that have fed the popularity of his earlier Cold Blue releases.
Recording information: TDS Studio, Encino, CA (2003-2005).
Photographer: Laura Steele.
In his series of albums for Cold Blue, Chas Smith has never been a hard hitter -- Nikko Wolverine had its somewhat harsher moments, but that's all. With Descent, he suddenly moves even deeper into soundscaping, straight across the new age border. An Hour Out of Desert Center, a pedal steel guitar affair, already hinted at that direction. This time, though, the metallic sound sculptures are back, but the music remains aerial, evanescent, and slightly shapeless. There is no way to differentiate the sounds of the Copper Box and those of the Guitarzilla, or the steel guitar for that matter. Everything is meshed into a multi-layered soundscape that evokes electronics much more than metallics. The album consists of three pieces, ten to 20 minutes in duration. "Descent" prominently features jet planes, giving the title all its meaning and the piece a certain disquieting feel. The contrast between the invasive rush of jet engines and the otherwise delicate sound textures provides food for thought. On the other hand, the reappearance of the same jet planes early in "Endless Mardi Gras" is downright annoying. They disappear in the second half of the piece, making way for a quiet flute lost amidst the resonances of the other instruments. "False Clarity" trades voice for flute (again, quiet and fully integrated to the fabric of the piece). Here, one can feel the presence of Smith's sculptures, as the bowing of metal is left more palpable. Descent has its share of interesting moments, but it is not as attention-grabbing as Smith's previous efforts. ~ François Couture