Almost no label that purports to be presenting “minimalist” works is without the ever present output of Richard Chartier. His name, like Bernhard Gunther before him, became synonymous with a certain brand of minimalism. Since the re-release a few years back of his early works, “Other Materials” and “Direct.Incidental.Consequential.” Chartier’s profile has reached near stratospheric levels. His work, (virtually in parallel to Bernhard Gunther’s) ranges from the near-silent pieces on “Series” (which really gave life to his recent success), to the more accessible “Levels Inverted” installation piece last year. Of late, he has been perhaps over prolific, basking in the glow of success, underground media darling , and satisfying an audience hungry for his often austere sound installations, constantly touring with boundless energy, and with audio and visual work springing up in every corner of the globe, saturating the scene with a host of recordings for the last two years or so.
It is with no surprise then, that Room 40 recently released “Current”, a modest 19 minute tonal piece that epitomises Chartier’s more recent sound works, and further adds weight to the label’s impressive roster of luminaries. Typically, Current opens with an agonisingly slow tonal swell, hovering just within the audible spectrum, gently building anticipation. Over the first five minutes, pin spots of sound gradually bloom into audibility, an opening curtain that slowly envelops us with rich, dark reverberating tones, perforated with fractures and swells, and slowly repetitive hypnotic sequences.Gradually the focus becomes sharper, more tactile, and more visceral sounds beging to dominate. It is in the selection of sounds and their inherent precision and quality that Chartier has mastered his craft; this alongside a punishing live schedule, has helped him become one of the most prominent figures in sonic art at the moment.
One gets the impression that this is a true labour of love, and as a self confessed “neat freak”, Chartier’s every sound, every nuance has been thoroughly and lovingly honed and assembled with a surgeon-like hand. If this were a painting, it would be one of Rauschenberg’s Black Paintings, with subtle depths, and mystery in every crevice, a work of clarity, that shifts focus and perspective constantly. Packaged as an Edition in one of Room 40’s understated, utilitarian clamshells, Current is well worth the asking price. This is one of Chartier’s better recent works, but at 19 minutes plus, perhaps a little too short for total immersion .BGN