The Songs of Chantitown (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

28576657_155410868490908_7154192027187769019_nThere is a grace at the heart of Chantitown’s music which has rarely been seen amongst modern artists. It harks back to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Carol King and a small number of artists who were part of that wave of rootsy pop and folk-revivalists who are still seen as the golden age of the art. But, thankfully, she is also well aware that mere pastiche or copy-cat plagiarism doesn’t cut it in the modern age either and the skill she employs to fashion her songs means that although they beat with a quietly nostalgic heart, they also sparkle with modern sass and deftly wander all points in between.

The real charm is this seamless blend of an ambient acoustic vibe with seeping electronica, of majestic but distant atmospherics, of intrigue and anticipation, of restraint and understatement. Even when the textures and sonic layers are writ large they are done so in a water-colour style application rather seeking to make their point through vibrant, thick oils. (Not the best of analogies but I’m sure you understand the point I’m making.) The result is a series of windswept and gossamer like sounds hanging around the lead lines rather than anything more intrusive or bombastic.

Truth immediately draws comparison with Natasha Khan’s gorgeous electronic balladry, the same ethereality meets electronica, emotive ancient sentiments evoked through cutting edge musical technology. And Bat For Lashes is not a bad reference point, sharing the same eclectic approach, the same blend of past and present, the same genre-hopping, musical gene-splicing and, in the case of this track in particular, the same exotic blend of eastern spice and western bite, of occident meeting orient.

At the opposite end of the dynamic spectrum Prince of Pain is the most dominant of the four songs presented here, but even then it still works more in an ambient surrounding than a pop one, yet like all of Chantitown’s songs it walks a fine line between the cool and cultish, and the accessible and commercial, and that is a trick that most artists never master. But here it is done so skilfully that you could almost use this as a template as to how to blur the lines of those two, often conflicting, worlds.

But it isn’t just the music which is tantalising and enticing here, Cause and The Cure in particular is spacious enough to showcase what an astonishing voice she has, weaving narratives which take in the personal and the poetic, which shift from direct, almost spoken word deliveries to the harmonious and cinematic, a style which runs through all of her songs but which for my money is epitomised best here. The final song found in this showcase of music is Mother of Sun, an epic, slow burning thing of haunting beauty, though, to be honest, that is a phrase which could apply to anything which has gone before.

In Chantitown I think we have found someone truly important, someone game changing, someone who sits on a line that links Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush to Portishead to Natasha Khan and who shows that music can be accessible, infectious and beguiling and also (fingers crossed) commercially successful, without being obvious and cliched.


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