edrooms have always been forums for making music, but Chachi Jones is a special case. There’s a brief statement on the inner cover of the liner notes for Claustrophilia:
“All contents performed, composed, recorded and mixed by me, Chachi Jones, during a period of unemployment (and subsequent depression) between November 2001 and February 2002 whereupon I rarely left my apartment and used the creation of this CD as a means to hold on to my own thin thread of sanity.
I feel much better now, thanks.”
Now, after reading that, you might be expecting something deeply fraught, something that speaks to what Jones was going through at the time. What you find, instead, is an album of competent-verging-on-good electronic music that could have been made anywhere.
The first few tracks boast brutally simple drum programming that’s shoved up into the front of the mix, overwhelming the rest of the songs; most of them suffer as a result, but the bracing ‘Cowboy’ comes out the better for all the gnashing and banging. Opening with vocal samples reminiscent of Scannerfunk, the track quickly bombards you with trash compacter beats, occasionally retreating to softer bleeps before upping the ante again. But where ‘Cowboy’ fully embraces the disorienting effect of the guttural drums layered over the more diaphanous aspects of Jones’ non-drum programming, tracks like ‘Catalytic’ place too much focus on the rapid, repetitive beats, leaving them adrift.
After that Claustrophilia drifts into ambience, formless at times, but at others (‘Avery 113’ in particular, although with its clomping drums it’s a hybrid of the two) it remains bleakly lovely. ‘MK1101 (Breath Mix)’ stands out with its distortion and heavy breathing, but doesn’t really appeal. ‘Brown’, meanwhile, is barely there.
By the end of the record, the above-average ‘Broken Bliss Box’, Jones has slipped in a few more beatfests to vary the pace a bit, but most of the record just doesn’t stick. ‘Cowboy’, ‘Avery113’, ‘Broken Bliss Box’ and a couple of the other better tracks (maybe ‘Taking You Out’ and ‘Clear’) would make a fine EP, but there’s just too much homogeneity here, albeit of two types, to make the record as a whole terribly compelling.
In the end Claustrophilia is stuck in an increasingly familiar position in the now crowded field of homemade electronic music: Not bad enough to revile, not quite distinctive enough to really stand out. It’s good to hear that Jones feels better now; hopefully with increased focus he can make a full-length effort as off-kilter and compelling as ‘Cowboy’.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-03-10