Chas Smith is one of the most unique musicians working today. He has created his own musical world—complete with its own instruments and “language.” It is a world of expansive musical tapestries and carefully sculpted textures that never sit absolutely still, but evolve via a slow, constant change of aural perspective. Smith’s soundworld, however, it is not an altogether alien one, and critics, in their praise of Smith’s work, have repeatedly compared his compositions—some resonantly beautiful, some darkly brooding, some sonically overpowering—to those of Ligeti.
With Descent, Smith continues to create the great, sometimes clangorous soundscapes that have fed the popularity of his earlier Cold Blue releases. The central pitch and structural ideas for the three pieces that comprise this CD were originally conceived for an evening of music that Smith presented at Los Angeles’s historic Schindler House. Here, those initial ideas are expanded and developed.
On this recording, Smith utilizes his large sculptural instruments, which are all made of various metals (and go by such unusual names as Copper Box, Que Lastas, Pez Eater and Jr. Blue), steel guitar, the recorded sounds of jet engines, and Smith’s self-designed-and-built three-neck steel guitar, “guitarzilla,” which he prepares (a la John Cage’s prepared piano) with metal rods and plays with hammered dulcimer hammers.
“Listening to Chas Smith’s newest CD, Descent, is like sifting through space. It’s atmospheric and otherworldly, yet never stands still. Here and there are small craters and crescendos of electronic sound, and the harmonic landscape seems to suggest a tonic center, but then it slowly drifts into outer orbits to explore a much larger sound vocabulary. Three tracks are all Smith needed—the first two enjoying fairly long sitting times for you to find your inner Dream House—but all three employ Smith’s own take on the limits, or lack there of, of the southern steel guitar using electronic enhancements.” —Anna Reguero, NewMusicBox (American Music Center)
“Ethereal and intangible is Chas Smith’s Descent…which transforms his guitar chords and the slowed-down and treated sounds of a flute and airplanes into a translucent envelope. He gets an oddly earthy and warm atmosphere out of metal.”—Classica-Repertoire (France)