Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Groove Theories: Chasms / Subtle Bodies

Subtle Bodies
Sleep Genius

by Sean Morris

It was a rainy February night in Davis, CA. 2Pac brayed from my car stereo as I drove to see Wax Idols tear the roof off of a house known simply as “Chillanova.” Instinctively checking Twitter upon my arrival, I learned that an amp had fallen on the finger of Hether Fortune, WI’s frontwoman, and the band would have to cancel. San Francisco’s Chasms became impromptu headliners, and though the roof stayed intact, their goth-tronic post-rock duo delicately reversed the gravitational pull of the house partygoers’ feet.

Intrigued, the next day I took to Chasms’ Soundcloud and perused their most recent release at the time, the RiserEP. That majestic sixteen minutes comprises the first half of Subtle Bodies, their first LP. Though the chest-thumping percussion that opens “N.V.S.” is programmed at headbanger speed, there is never any doubt that this song was made for swaying. Dissonant and dulcet guitars gather like storm clouds, Jess Labrador’s elongated undertone misting the strikingly hypnotic track as it chugs along. Primary songwriter Labrador still hasn’t told me if “N.V.S.” stands for “not very smart” or “night vision system.”

Template firmly established, Labrador and bassist Sky Madden dig in. Their supernatural shoegaze would fit perfectly on the soundtrack of any David Lynch movie that isn’t The Straight Story. "Riser" features more pronounced (though not much more coherent) vocals, brightening the gloomy drone beneath it. “Not In This Dimension” is noticeably softer. Muted drums and Madden’s bass attempt to torment high-pitched melodies flittering their way to the heavens.

“When It Comes” and “Darker Outside” are slightly less bewitching. These cuts come from an earlier EP that employed more white noise than its followup did. “Soft Opening” and the newly recorded “Dissolution Into Clear Light” provide a glimpse into what a Chasms live show is like. The focus is less on harmonic refrains and more on ambient distortion. Divorced from the strobes and smoke of a darkened stage (or even a dimly lit living room), these pieces lose a bit of resonance. Even the most patient ear may strain to stay invested in the eleven and a half-minute “Dissolution.” Still, the top half of Subtle Bodies is so winning that the spell it casts does not break.

Chasms will tour the west coast this October with new wave group All Your Sisters. Be sure to check them out, provided nothing slices your finger open.

Subtle Bodies is vinyl + download that is only available via Chasms website, but the EPs that Subtle Bodies are culled from are available on itunes and amazon.

Listen/purchase Chasms' music on:

Zestyverse's resident Music Geek Sean Morris is an SF Bay Area native with a photographic memory and encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture. He is a graduate of UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television, a former Los Angeles Slam Team member, part of the collective Art 4 A Democratic Society, and a music blogger for The Owl Mag. Find him on TwitterSoundCloud, and YouTube.

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