Chase Dobson :: Parallel Lines (The Crime League)

Are you less concerned with musical genre and formula than with emotion and compositional skill?

Is it dark outside? Are you sitting comfortably? Are your speakers and amplifier capable of reproducing audio waveforms with enough energy that you can feel their vibrations on your skin? Are you less concerned with musical genre and formula than with emotion and compositional skill? If you answered “yes” to all or most of the above, you’re in for a lovely treat courtesy of Denver’s Chase Dobson.

This six-track release on Toronto’s Crime League label shows a clear progression from Chase’s last full album, the fantastic 2011 Tympanik Audio release …At the End of it All. Whereas that album flirted with stylistic convention, it remained firmly rooted in the glitching beat/floating synth post-industrial IDM world that Tympanik’s nurtured and advanced since its inception in 2008. The intervening years have found Dobson embracing more organic instrumentation, more expansive soundscapes, and yes, even singing.

In an online conversation, Chase pointed out that he also included vocals on his contribution to the giant Tympanik compilation Accretion a couple of years ago (which I’m relieved to see, retrospectively, that I called out in my review!) but that now they’re “loud and proud, not buried and shoegazey.” After the slow build of opener “Tangent A,” “Soft” begins the  genre-bending: a thumping, danceable beat and squiggling bassline provide counterpoint for a clean, spacious guitar line and the “loud and proud” lyrics. Perhaps “soft and proud” is more accurate. We’re not talking about Carly Rae Jepsen here—it’s still pretty shoegazey—but the effect is altogether lovely. “Metal and Plastic” throws a straight 4/4 kick under a complex, hypnotic melody woven by rung bells and hammered marimba; the mix is precisely layered and so clean I kept looking behind my chair for the telephone when the accent hit.

Next up is a collaboration with Michael Morton (longtime Igloo fav better known as Displacer). Dobson explained the track’s evolution: “I started the tune. I programmed a couple of drum loops and wrote some ambient stuff. I sent those parts to him as wave files. Once he got the modular synth and bassline parts down he sent multitracks back to me and it really just fell into place… The arrangement came together really quickly once I came up with the vocal loop and phrases.” The finished track is my favorite offering on the release, with churning percussion and a slamming bassline underpinning a very strong melody and vocal line. “Staring at my shoes / mumbling uncomfortable truths / I finally give it all to you,” Chase intones, unable even in this up-front performance to completely avoid a bit of shoegaze.

“Tangent B,” as the name implies, picks up echoes of the “Tangent A” opener, in that it also has a deep drone at its spine, but quickly goes down a dubbier path, stabbing some dark dub-techno chords into the heart of a simple four-on-the-floor rhythm. It quickly departs from the formula laid out by Basic Channel and its acolytes, stacking psychedelic trance over cavernous washes and introducing tiny crystalline percussive details. There’s a brief ambient smoke break in the middle and then the kick is reintroduced, running out for almost eight minutes and leaving me hungry for a rewind. The album’s closer is a remix of “Soft” by Dryft, n5MD label head Mike Cadoo, who stretches out the original’s beats into a vast, slowly shifting interiority. It feels a little too slow, to be honest, compared to the bouncing bass hits of the original, but it’s a nice addition to what might otherwise be a release whose end comes far too soon.

Hopefully this release represents a new burst of productivity from Chase Dobson, in addition to a new direction. The juxtaposition of more straight-ahead techno styles with his masterful use of spatial sound design, restrained vocal stylings and obsessive IDM micro-detail set a very high bar.

Parallel Lines is available on Crime League

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