May 7, 2014

Chartreuse: Gloriosa Venenum Serpentis

JRS Tapes


Picture a large room: a high, vaulted ceiling and bare stone floors, like a church with all the pews ripped out. At the far end of the room is an amplifier. A guitar leans against it. The amp emits a faint hum that combines with the other sound in the room, a slow, swirling melody, ghostly voices reverberating throughout the hall. The hum of the amp grows louder; the choir fades.

A lone figure steps into the hall and picks up the guitar. Massive chords fill the empty space, a dense distortion heavy with static. A ponderous melody emerges, a dark echo of the voices' song. So it goes on the first half of Chartreuse's two-part Gloriosa Venenum Serpentis. The record has a mysterious, awestruck feel, fitting for an act whose name derives from a medieval order of monks.

The tape's second half begins with that same distorted guitar playing single low notes, drawn out, bleeding into feedback. Four minutes in, the mood lightens. A clean guitar plays a repeated figure, a trail of delay following each note. As on latter-era Talk Talk records, you can hear the empty space. More guitars join in as the figure keeps circling. Then, in the last few minutes, a new sound, resonant and repeating, like the pealing of strange bells. 4 out of 5.