Chicago based Jason Shanley returns with another tape of blissful ambient abstraction. Operating under the name Cinchel, Shanley has become adept at churning out lush tonal choruses from a simple but effective guitar/laptop set-up. He describes his music as minimally dense — minimal in the sense that he uses few instruments in conjunction with simple effects, and dense in that he uses a lot of layering to give his pieces their satisfying wall-of-sound hypnosis. One needn’t look further than “Movement Without Aging” for this dichotomous approach turned harmonious. In closely scrutinizing the piece, one can make out those telltale effects (there’s a delay/flanger thing happening) that populate electronic music to a sickening degree. A Cinchel track, however, buries these markers beneath a corporeal swell, shifting the conversation from effect to affect.
I’m tempted to criticize this album for sounding just a bit dated. This kind of thing was being released in droves 10 years ago from tape labels like Monorail Trespassing and Wagon. But, where those releases felt like products of the times, A Sad Study… feels more insular, as though Shanley is working outside the influence of his contemporaries (if that’s even possible). I am fully aware this could be completely off-base, but is nonetheless a feeling I get from this music. Evidently, A Sad Study… is a product of an artist who’s become wholly comfortable with his sound, tweaking and developing incrementally — as opposed to dramatically altering his approach — from release to release.
The tape has just looped back to the beginning, and, as I listen through headphones at a local café, sunlight pours in through the windows while the sound of twinkling bells is slowly overtaken by a pleasantly distorted guitar drone. By the time the second track kicks in, “Time with Dinosaurs, the Flying Ones,” (great title!) my anxieties are washed away by the music, sent off by an updraft inside a cloud of illuminated dust. For now, I simply exist. Seconds, maybe minutes go by as I watch pedestrians cross a busy intersection. Their mouths move in muted conversation, completely unaware of the soundtrack their movements have given life to. It’s a familiar scene, but the music of Cinchel has given it a new light. The angular tones of “4,708 Meals” snaps me back into my immediate reality. I become astutely aware of my body, my surroundings and the music, all as separate entities. Somewhere within me that feeling of being set adrift lingers. It’s a reminder of what I’ve come to appreciate about this kind of music over the years, and why it’s worth it to keep listening, exploring and writing about it in a world whose pace is too often overwhelming.