Another semi-solid something-or-other in the stream of Chocolate Monk releases, this is a double solo header of electronics and voice from label heads Karen Constance and Dylan Nyoukis, with a typically atypical closing number.
Karen’s 14-minute piece is mostly electronics, taking on an elongated toothpaste worm form of modular sounds and improvised half melodic notions. From a tentative start, it quickly blossoms from an ambient doodle into an expanding set of eerie energies. A good portion of “?” centers on cross streams of ‘coming up’ electronic bubbles. As it reaches the mid-way point “?” settles into a burbling bleepage of superspeed spaffing lava lamp pulses with the vacuum burr in the right speaker. The overall sensations offered are warm and exploratory though, with even the treble-sharp pinprick notes that needle the tones not ripping the atmosphere as it closes into a melt of lapping tones.
When people usually think of Dylan Nyoukis, they think of experimental vocal collages; demented vocal collages and loops of his chop and slurp vocals. The beginning of his “??” is disorientingly disarmingly gentle, a coil of bird coos that swoop around the Chocolate Monk HQ. It’s five minutes or so into the 20-minute piece before Nyoukis audibly appears. He’s a heavy leak of snarls, stutters, and stomps that spins his aural rhythms like a physical presence on the track. But like most of the track’s elements, that Golem sound doesn’t stay for long, nought endures here as unsteadiness is the only constant. Stilted speed and varispeed pitch put the listener in the center of the wooziest queasiest post-Waltzer wander ever. “??” is a crawling morass of bits that Nyoukis arranges like a room strewn with magnetic tape arcs like a murder scene.
The final track, a small curio credited on the digital release to Two Winnies and Pals, could only belong in the Chocolate Monk world where everything is pretty much a ?. For the most part, it’s a recording of some late-night Central Scotland bevvying and a wee bit of a singsong, and some intermittent bit of tape slippage. At one glorious moment though, the Club Singer stylings explode into a swarm of singers bellowing skywards in the style of Gaelic psalm singers. The whole thing lights up for a magnificent instant and then it’s back to boozy banter.
Entertaining, experimental, and idiosyncratic. Chocolate Monk, with this being their 543rd release, is still going strong.