Eric Chenaux Dull Lights

It’s ever more difficult to pin down Eric Chenaux on Dull Lights, which shifts between innovative yet familiar song structures and found sound freedom. On "Skullsplitter,” improvised noises emanate from guitars, drums, banjos, and who knows what else slink around disparately underneath a solid vocal melody from Chenaux. The effect is disconcerting but empowering; the listener enjoys a certain freedom in choosing whether or not to connect Chenaux’s voice with the gentle din around him. The focus of the song is understated or unclear but is provocative nonetheless. Bearing a more conventional song form, "Worm and Gear” is an anthemic march, with Chenaux’s fragile, hopeful vocal line completely in-step with a fascinating soundtrack. On "I Can See it Now,” Chenaux amplifies isolation into an edgy, emotional form of expression, which is further heightened by a delicate, teetering, musical miscellany. Percussionist Nick Fraser is a wonder throughout the record, but his tasteful flurries on "Weather the Wind” truly stand out, complementing Chenaux’s restless vocal. With banjos, lap steel, and harmonica surfacing sporadically, there is something to the notion that Chenaux is close to patenting some form of "really new country music,” and "Memories Are No Treasure” sounds like a group of improv jazz players rushing the Ryman’s stage. Whether syncing melodies on songs like "White Dwarf White Sea” or playing off of musical partners (and fate) on pieces such as "However Wildly We Dream,” Eric Chenaux has composed a uniquely inspiring record with Dull Lights. ()