Chapterhouse
Whirlpool
2006
B+



having someone listen to you is quite a rewarding experience. Whomsoever made the decision to depict the essence of Whirlpool as a curled, sleeping cat was obviously taking inspiration from my highly influential treatise on the subject of shorthand shoegazing characterisation. Though the term “whirly-spinning-open-armed-sky-embracing-dream-warmth” rapidly fell out of favour with everyone who could read, it would seem that the fluffy kitten theorem lives triumphantly on in the minds of those who design record covers. Truly, this is a proud moment.

In brief, the hypothesis suggests that any and all musical groups that express or possess features associated with the shoegazing movement can be metaphorically summarised in feline form. This groundbreaking advance in journalistic shorthand extrapolates data from the simple, observable phenomena that listening to such records sounds awfully like stroking a rather fluffy kitten the wrong way. Therefore, this re-issue of Chapterhouse’s long unobtainable debut album (itself a lovely jumble of different sessions and producers) can be expressed thusly:
Fur Density: High. Smothering and engulfing.
Purr Volume: From mild vibrations to levels that threaten crockery.
Potential Kitten Anger: Low risk. Too spaced on catnip.
Tetanus: Rare, but make sure your shots are up to date. That’s just good sense.
With that in mind, can much else be said? Well, yes. I’m thrilled to announce that yet another important step has been made towards an all-encompassing scientific model for reviews which would normally waste time namechecking My Bloody Valentine. Dubbed “The Fringe Coefficient,” this fresh discovery remains at an experimental and volatile stage, but initial tests have proved fascinating. Essentially, it has transpired that the willingness to include magnificent swirly sounds and subdued, breathy vocals in any given track can be closely estimated by the collective fringe length within the group at the time of recording. Research also suggests that any occurrence of the classic mid-90s “curtains” haircut, beloved by many in their youth, may provide further clues as to the predilection for gigantic swooshing effects.

Needless to say, our good friends in Chapterhouse possess a Fringe Coefficient so mighty that the tiny needle on the crude apparatus is flapping away wildly in the red area; positive proof of their epic commitment to making guitars echo through our feeble space-time continuum and into newer, more interesting dimensions. Possibly ones stretched at weird, impossible angles and stuff.

And lo, this is precisely what happens for sixteen tracks. As previously touched upon, the tunes come from a variety of recording stints—each involving a different producer (including the Cocteaus’ Robin Guthrie)—so any seekers of cohesiveness have cause to beware. On the positive side, this means that seven additional tracks (taken from the early EPs) can slip seamlessly onto the end of the record without causing much of a stir or upsetting any kind of cosmic balance. Another positive side is ... well, pretty much everything else. Evidently feeling liberated by the ability to create walls of noise at will, Chapterhouse are happy to introduce a few quirks that their counterparts would perhaps choose not to touch; hence the occasional nods towards Happy Mondays-esque beats on “Falling Down” and subliminal Latin chanting lurking just offstage of “Satin Safe.” There is also more standard fare to be found, though using that term is almost to deny the perfection with which “Autosleeper” employs the much travelled post-rock path of quiet-LOUD-quiet—deftly mixing woozy atmospherics with dismembered explosions of feedback.

Kittens, science, floppy fringes, loud noises—confusing times, I know. Yet here is the wonderful simplicity; anyone already entrenched in this “genre” or “scene” or “genrene” probably already owns a copy of Whirlpool. It’s twice the length now, so if you’re missing any of the EPs you could probably buy it again and be quite satisfied. Anyone hanging on for a reissue due to extortionate pricing of the out of print version—you know what to do. Anyone wondering where to go after Souvlaki or Psychocandy, you should give this a spin (spinning .. whirlpool ... ho ho, do you see!?!). Anyone just wasting time at work, hello there—don’t forget to clear your history folder. Anyone ... else? Great, I’ll be off then. I have an album which urgently needs another listen.


Reviewed by: Peter Parrish
Reviewed on: 2006-05-01
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