May 23, 2022

Eric Chenaux – ‘Say Laura’ – “focusing the ears into a light and spiritually free space”

CONSTELLATION 18th February 2022

Back, four years after ‘Slowly Paradise’, with his new album, there is a lot to celebrate in ‘Say Laura’. Eric Chenaux is still working with Ryan Driver, who contributes lyrics and some Wurlitzer. He’s also still making woozy, sun-drunk music with wayward notes that somehow work just exactly right.

Chenaux sings and plays electric guitar (both plugged in and not plugged in), harmonica and some electronics. Having seen him play live, nothing is as loose as it appears and he spends a long time getting his tunings and effects just right. So when you hear a buzzing bluebottle, that is the intention. When the guitar takes a dive off-note to somewhere you didn’t expect, he wanted that to happen. Vocals and guitar sometimes seem to travel slightly different paths but the tension between that is the jazz in the music. It still sounds haphazard and fortunately co-incidental but it is actually an Expressionist painting in sound. The lyrical journey, for me, is merely a set of words to hang a melody on – it’s hard to focus on words when the voice and guitar are pushing and pulling in such interesting ways.

This is ultimately a joyously relaxing album, a playful tugging of the earlobes and tweaking of expectations. It rarely goes in the direction expected, preferring to dance Puckishly away from the path we predicted. Eric’s sweet and pure lyrical voice is at odds from these wayward guitar notes that punctuate and illustrate the songs. The tunes are simple in concept but devious in delivery once the guitar has wandered around and the sonic space is wide and open, creating a big space for simple sounds to deliver complex ideas.

Effects pedals deliver beats, modulating the guitar and warping proceedings just enough to create exploratory tensions. These are fully explored and pieces average out at about ten minutes – time enough to bend into the strange head-space these sounds create. There is a beauty here, created from apparent randomness, focusing the ears into a light-hearted and spiritually free space. A special and other-worldly beauty that turns jazz guitar into an unhinged yet perfectly judged summer’s afternoon.

We reviewed Eric’s previous album here:

http://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/eric-chenaux-slowly-paradise-jazzy-and-distinctive/

and we were lucky enough to catch a tiny and personal gig in Bradford in 2018:

http://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/eric-chenaux-paradise-passed-by-in-a-dream-live-in-bradford/