Chaircrusher is an Atmospheric, Downtempo, Electronic music project led by Iowa City based musician Kent Williams. Having released an impressive multitude of work since the mid 1990’s, Kent continues to set the bar higher with each work. On March 19, 2021, Chaircrusher’s most recent effort, Stars Have Fallen, was released on Triplicate Records.
Without locking into one specific sound or style, Chaircrusher’s material maintains a consistency and cohesiveness throughout. In other words, the different tracks don’t take the listener into too many unnecessary directions. Vestiges of World Music, New Age, and Chillout music influences are prominent throughout the album, without coming across as forced, predictable or one-dimensional. A few of the tracks incorporate a clever use of non-conventional tonality, although there is nothing blatantly atonal or dissonant on the album. All in all, the densely layered tonal textures and melodic passages are a satisfying treat for listeners who yearn for music of this variety – music with substance that doesn’t try too hard to appeal to a commercial audience. On Stars Have Fallen, Kent does a wonderful job at using his imaginative creative skills to move listeners with each individual work. Opening track “Some Stars Have Fallen” starts off with a pleasant use of delay-laden piano melodies which are kept glued together by a smooth bassline and a steady, danceable beat. Musically, it’s reminiscent of Chillout music or even Downtempo House music. It’s comfortably ambient with enough variations in the arrangement to keep things moving forward nicely. “Insular” is a more low-key, slightly spooky Ambient piece where percussive mallets and lightly distorted toms and bongos make up the structure of the music. Things continue to get interesting – and more haunting – on “Bobble”. Taking up a more Chillout approach while setting out towards a linear, non-melodic structure. Instrumentation is sparse, and percussion is downplayed under a bed of high-timbre synths that casually swell in and out like spacecraft emerging in and out of a series of clouds on a dark, foggy night.
“Mutt” heads into more abstract and experimental territory. Although rooted in D minor, there are a few occasional chromatic variations, semitonal elements, and intentional clashes of tonality that add an unnerving element to the composition. It’s as if Kraftwerk, John Cage, George Crumb, and Tangerine Dream collaborated on a piece for a Sci-Fi/Thriller movie. “Weathered” continues in a similar vein, although the atmosphere is more low-key, low-timbre, and wider in sonic depth. I almost feel myself walking near a giant series of ancient caves that lead to a lost underground temple, or even along a long, desolate beach connected to a series of rocky cliffs at sunrise. Just when I think things couldn’t get darker, “Abnegate” offers a delightfully eerie and introspective Ambient piece. Devoid of any steady rhythm or beat, the modal synth pattern creeps in and out like a spider lurking in its vast web – patiently awaiting its next prey to arrive. “Debouch” kicks things into a bit higher gear, taking the listener back into a more rhythmic, beat driven environment. The pianos in this Chillout, Downtempo work have some Smooth Jazz and New Age sensibilities sprinkled throughout, while the beat itself could work smoothly if applied to a Trip-Hop or Hip-Hop beat. Finally, closing track “Freue Mich” ends the album on a wonderful note. Musically, it takes the album full-circle, incorporating almost a little bit of every element heard throughout. The melodic elements, instrumentation, and arrangement give the piece an enigmatic, introspective feel. I envision a person reaching a crossroads, wondering where to go next in life. “Freue Mich” is that song that plays in the background as the individual sets out on their own path, not looking back one bit. Overall, there’s an abundant of highly enjoyable material on the newest Chaircrusher release, Stars Have Fallen. I highly recommend adding it to your collection if you enjoy diverse Electronic music that broadens the horizons without losing an ounce of focus or direction. Enjoy this release while taking a long, quiet walk along the beach at dusk or dawn, or, perhaps, while going on a cruise through the more rural terrain on a chilly, foggy night.