Written and produced by Jones himself with occasional help from Marc Romboy and Rocks 45, Chatterton sees the producer now on Systematic, but the label change barely has any consequences aesthetically speaking. Just like "Deer in the Headlights" and "Mythologies (Myths I & II)" before them, overtly dramatic album opener "Barefoot Through Hell" and the spooky "Bathroom Mirror Legend" sound more like complex displays of arrangements and studio wizardry than actual songs.
It quickly gets almost intolerable with the wandering abstractions of "The Cockpit," the short-lived "Insects" and the beatless ambiance of "Sky is Sea," all cuts that are obviously intended as welcome pauses from some of the histrionic excesses elsewhere, but instead end up pointlessly driveling. Even first single "Rehabilitation" is a demanding venture into structure-free electronic pop: the half spoken word, half ascending synth noise result is weirdly rewarding, in an artsy kind of way, but it requires a specific type of open-minded abandon that will leave dancers and home listeners alike puzzled at best (if not totally turned-off at worst).
Luckily, there are moments of pure bliss during which Jones ends up perfectly embodying the engaging deep house he is aiming for. "Pompadour" and "For the Last Time/Psycho Audio Couture" are elaborate numbers that set highly temperamental vocal performances to the type of contemporary tech-house surroundings praying mantises listen to when decapitating their male lovers (an analogy Chelonis must surely know a thing or two about).
But then things get strange with "Underdog Anomaly" and "Pompadour (Pre Mutation)," two pieces intended for the inner graver in all of us: built around live bass lines worthy of Peter Hook at his most doleful, and with added echoes and an overall dub feel that can't help but recall Bauhaus' own Goth-defining anti-anthem "Bela Lugosi's Dead." These songs ambitiously telescope deep house's theatricality with cold wave's restraint, and in these moments, Jones successfully walks the sonic fine line between both quite confidently.
Taken as a whole, though, Chatterton would obviously benefit from focus and clarity, something the glossy allure of recent Systematic releases might have had you hoping for. Instead, Jones' craft is still as insularly dislocated as before. He keeps marching to the beat of his own hairdresser, and while that should be praised, the path is so perplexing at times that it isn't surprising to find not everyone is willing to follow him there.
Fri / 24 Apr 2009
01. Barefoot Through Hell
04. The Cockpit
05. Underdog Anomaly
07. On the Run
08. For the Last Time/Psycho Audio Couture
10. Bathroom Mirror Legend
12. Sky Is Sea