May 29, 2024

ERIC CHENAUX – “SLOWLY PARADISE”: Jazzy and distinctive

CONSTELLATION RECORDS                          9th March, 2018

I’ve heard a few Eric Cheneaux albums and every one has been different – he’s earnt a lot of respect here. A very skilled guitarist but one who loves experimenting, he makes his way between the raindrops of genres, never getting wet. He journeys from small arts venue to the next with his guitar and effects. This album may be his most accessible and deserves a home in your heart.

This is a set of songs, though the playing is as, if not more, important than the singing. The songs are gentle and thoughtful, jazzy in feel, written with Ryan Driver, who adds subtle touches of Wurlitzer. Chenaux’s voice, high, sweet, and slightly warbly, reminds me of Robert Wyatt, as does the jazzy accompaniment. This is not pure guitar, this is guitar plus multiple effects and overdubs, added to Eric’s electronics and gentle drums. He can make a sound almost like a horn, he can make wasp sounds, he can make the guitar a thick pencil, punctuating the expected beats and stepping heavy where not expected. Sounds can be synthesized, sweetly acoustic or buzzy. He delights in playing the note least expected at the time least expected and makes a lovely, slightly dissociated and disorientating album. Yet somehow it is beautifully relaxing and fantastically real in effect. It sounds like a man playing in your front room. He bends notes, adds warbles, vibrato on slack strings stretched wide on the fretboard.

I hear the spirit of The Incredible String Band in this semi-folk, semi-West Coast balladeering gone weird. I hear the odder moments of John Martyn. I hear something that sounds extemporised but may not be. I hear love songs dragged off course by heavily strange guitar. It is mellow but it’s clever and new, tasteful yet experimental in all flavours. It is almost as if he is allowing his fingers to improvise independent of his rational mind, to surprise himself and engage his senses in responding.

Although thoughtful and considered, this album is playful and inventive; a wobbly set of steps around a light and airy space. Rather lovely and very special.

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