Chronographs – ‘D.O.T.S’ [Review]

DOTS Artwork FinalChronographs are one of my favourite bands of right now. Their current project – writing, recording, and releasing a song a month for a year – is, in my opinion, more relevant to modern life than the more traditional album release cycles still employed throughout the record business. Each time Chronographs release a track it describes precisely how they feel right now – or have felt very recently.

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and text messages, we’re used to instantly sharing what we’re thinking and feeling right now – but the soundtracks to our lives don’t do the same thing. Listening to full albums can feel like opening a time capsule, or staring at an ancient document behind a museum display’s security glass – and thanks to the “unbundling” phenomenon many of us choose to cherry-pick our favourite tracks from a full-length LP and leave the rest to gather digital dust. Even if we do pick up the whole thing, we face the question of what it’s all supposed to mean – assuming that at some point in our overstressed, time-pressured day we can be bothered to take the time to work it out, or even ask the question in the first place.

It’s not just fans, either. Musicians have their own issues with albums, commonly encountering frustration and anxiety during album cycles for a range of reasons. For example, bands often don’t know when the fruits of their labours will see the light of day – umming and ahhing from higher up the record company ladder, endless debates over which song should be the lead single, self-doubt, second-guessing, and good old-fashioned laziness and procrastination can all cause a record’s release date to be pushed further and further back. “It’s coming out soon…hopefully,” is about the most accurate statement many musicians can make about their prides and joys while worrying about the present state of their recording careers.

Then, again, there’s the question of relevance. If an artist writes a song, records it several months later as part of an album package, waits for it to be given the green light for release, and then and only then sees it being shared with their fans, by the time it reaches the audience’s ears that same artist may well have evolved so much as a person that that same song holds value solely for nostalgic reasons. The artist may have a whole other album written by that point – or two albums, or even more. They might have something different to say, and disagree entirely with the thoughts and musings behind their present-day hits. The artist-fan relationship becomes temporally fractured; the fan is always a year or so behind their idol, desperate to keep up but only getting there through social media – not the music.

D.O.T.S is a fascinating insight into life as a band adapting to a new era. Stumbling and stuttering riffs reflect fractured and frustrated vocals, struggling to find resolution and security and never quite getting there. For me, D.O.T.S represents the dark side of our new world; things change so swiftly that living can feel like dancing on shifting sands. But at the same time, this situation can also be seen as reinforcing the value of the present moment, and forcing us to accept that security and constancy is actually an illusion.

The only thing you can rely on in life is change. Chronographs have not only recognised this, but are actively working with rather than against it. For that they deserve respect, success, and to be held up as an example of how to do things right in a business so long dismissed as archaic and self-attenuating.

Thanks to Lee Jackson at Saviour PR for the heads-up about this release.

Links / Listen

Chronographs official website.

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Posted on 31 July 2014

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