chauchat - "trails"

if chauchat's 2010/2011 fantastic "songs for scaffolding" long player was them building everything from the ground up, into a tower reaching for the heavens - then "trails" - the latest from core members tyler whitney & erik sahd sees them hurling themselves off said building and crashing face first into the concrete below. thats not to say this is some sort of "wreck" - as it is FAR FAR from it. instead it delivers the sort of triumph that only someone attempting to fly can - huzzah, balls, etc. etc. and lets face it, this is all a prelude - to build a coffin for - yet another release burning at this ones heels, which will collect bits and dust from the past ten years or so. but before we get too ahead of ourselves, trails is the next notch in the ever evolving guts of a band that continues to always surprise and grow. enlisting a few more ever changing players this thing twists and turns through a sonic graveyard of guitar clatter, sentimental muse, and fried rock with a little roll. recorded in an old candy factory, which is constantly being upgraded into one of the best studios around, this thing could include tags such as "engineered" & "produced" - but i don't know what those mean, and i dont think chauchat does either. FIRST EDITION OF 100 COPIES comes in silkscreened / numbered sleeves, with lyrics sheet and digital download, on chrome cassettes.

"wizard of time"
"cover it up"
"offensive line"
"i've been runnin'"
"instrumental reason"
"a mystical turn in the woods"
"out of touch"

"stab in the dark"
"blue challenge"
"rayleigh's thunder"


Since 1999, Tyler Whitney has been somewhat of an elusive character that emerges from a fog of invisibility every few years only to release an unexpected album of pure singer-songwriter brilliance as Chauchat and disappear once again before the word gets out. His obscurity is one that transcends the digital age of our modern epoch: zero web presence, a string of cryptic tapes and LPs that pose more questions than answers, no tours and rarely releasing a lick of music on any label other than the nomadic Unread Records, whose xeroxed tapes are more likely to include a physical address that is long since out of date than anything else.

Despite the mystery that shrouds his sporadic output, Whitney’s genius has made dedicated fans of people far beyond the perceived reaches of the home-taper underground; bands such as Bright Eyes and the Mountain Goats have cited the importance and powerful nature of Chauchat’s lyricism. A natural storyteller with a soft but resonant voice, Whitney channels the essence of his personal failures into earnest vignettes that are easy to relate to, but impossible to imitate.

"Trails" is his first album in four years and seems to serve as a radical departure from his past recordings. While previous releases were bathed in 4-track hiss and a sweet disposition towards his stories, “Trails" is brimming with a fervent punk energy and urgency that dominates almost every song on the album. The musicianship is tighter and his lyrical blows to the heart are rarely softened by pleasant reverb the way they once were. Punchy basslines drive these arrangements into a more rock-oriented territory, peppered by the tortured howls of ominous guitar squall and brooding instrumental collages. While lyrical content seems to be in line with his past, the overall tone conveyed by the music has a dark tinge that could have only come with four more years of feeling this way.

It’s great to see a tape that comes with a complete lyric sheet these days, especially one packaged in a multi-colored silkscreened j-card with a 6-panel foldout. Like every other Unread release, “Trails" is a prime example of how to sincerely execute the trash punk visual aesthetic. The oversaturated, high contrast design looks like the sort of thing you’d find in the filing cabinet in some forgotten Rust Belt town, replete with capital letters, crooked typography and words that barely survived their way through the predecessors of copy machines.

I personally made some attempts to track him down last year in hopes of playing a show with him on my own travels. The paper trail steered me away from major population centers across Pennsylvania, his whereabouts were confirmed at an abandoned candy factory where this album was recorded. A night in Omaha with Unread caretaker Chris Fischer indicated that correspondence regarding his residence “on some swamp near Williamsburg, VA" may be as accurate as hyperbole can possibly get. We managed to briefly meet in Richmond. If all signs point in the right direction, we’ll meet again in Michigan, and hopefully I can get him to play these songs live this time.

Chauchat’s “Trails" is a 14-song album released in June 2013, and is available in an edition of 100 hand-numbered cassettes with hand-screened artwork from Unread Records. - C86'D (kevin greenspon)

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