For those of you have been with us since CHAMBERS’ debut, you may be asking yourself: “wow, damn, shit-ass: has it really been five years?” Well, fourth-dimensionally speaking, yes. But don’t worry, we here at Parlour Tapes+ haven’t changed much. For example, we still use iMovie to make most of our promo videos:
I MEAN LOOK AT THAT COLOR EDITING. TRULY. WHAT A GEM. Er—sorry, that’s for the 15th anniversary. WHAT A WOOD / SILVERWARE.
Though in some ways, CHAMBERS does seem like a distant, beloved artifact to us. In the five years since its release, Spektral’s roster has changed significantly, nearly every composer on the record has moved away from Chicago, and somehow we managed to release 11 other albums.
Chicago’s contemporary classical music scene (yikes, do people even say that anymore?) has grown a lot since PT+001. Look no further than at all the GLORIOUS RECORDS that have been released since our inception in 2013 (not even counting our own)! We started this label because being among all these wonderful artists was an exciting moment that we wanted to capture, however fleeting it might have been.
Five years later, we’d like to reflect on and honor the moment that is CHAMBERS, even as the specifics of its creation have begun to dissipate in our memories. Like the coveted scent embedded in an article of clothing that’s hidden in your bedroom drawer, it fades a little bit each time you put your nose to it. As does this cassette tape’s sound each time you listen to it.
*WALKMAN™ IN HAND, TEARS STREAMING DOWN FACE*
Needless to say, we’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic over this anniversary, so we thought we’d reminisce with the performers and composers who made this beautiful record possible. Take it away, loves!
DOYLE ARMBRUST, SPEKTRAL QUARTET VIOLIST:
“I can’t believe it has been that long… and that it’s only been that long,” is what Russ just replied to me when I mentioned that we’re right up on the 5th anniversary of our debut album, CHAMBERS.
Sweet merciful jeebus, that project felt so intimidating when we were planning it, and then was so gratifying once the cassettes we’re heading out into the world. Six new or recent works by living Chicago composers, many of them friends, and not an even remotely straightforward/easy chart in the entire bunch. Certain moments form that time stand out to me, like working with the Arditti Quartet cellist Lucas Fels on Hans Thomalla’s onion-skin-paper-thin textures in Albumblatt. Or stressing about gouging my 150-year-old instrument with a guitar pick in Ben Hjertmann’s thrashy String Quartet No. 2, Étude.
And then there’s the recording process itself: setting up shop in a different venue for each piece – from the ultra-wet acoustic of Alice Millar Chapel in Evanston, to the ultra-dry “acoustic” of the Mucca Pazza rehearsal space…which come to think of it, that one was on July 3rd.
We scheduled a recording session. In Chicago. On July 3rd. It was a photo finish, getting in the last take just as the fireworks began to bombard the block.
Looking back, I’m really proud of this album. It was kind of a bold move, choosing these pieces, embracing vastly different acoustics to match the vibe of each, and deciding to have some supremely weird and wonderful music be our first-ever sonic business card outside of Chicago. Oh, and I’ll always be proud of the fact that our first record was a cassette. We’re a bunch of weirdos, and I love that we partnered with a bunch of weirdos to release this album.
Parlour Tapes+ 4lyfe.
ELIZA BROWN, COMPOSER:
My composing life, as I perceive it, has two phases: before string quartet, and after string quartet. While writing String Quartet No. 1, which Spektral recorded so beautifully in CHAMBERS, I finally figured out how to work productively across a set of musical interests and concerns whose integration had eluded me for... my entire life, up to that point. The pieces and artists represented on the album, and the concurrent launch of Parlour Tapes+, feel like a similarly generative moment in the life of new music in Chicago: the album brought together many people who had come to Chicago from different places, who had become increasingly active in the increasingly active Chicago scene in their own ways over several years, and who were drawn together into this one collection point of CHAMBERS. All the matter concentrated in that point - the album, the moment of my composing life it documented, and the people it brought together - has continued to be a source of creative energy and connection for me during the five years since the release.
BEN HJERTMANN, COMPOSER:
The undertaking of rhythm & guitar pick technique that Spektral exhibits Étude, remains a testament to their traiblazery. The close-up studio recording by Parlour Tapes+ emphasizes the Prog-Rock & Metal flavor of its conceits. I’m re-inspired 5 years later!
CHRIS FISHER-LOCHHEAD, COMPOSER:
Nostalgia does not accrue to the past moments of our lives with anything approaching linear regularity; it does not accumulate the way hard water cakes the inside of a kettle with mineral sediment. It seems to bunch up around certain knots of memory, self-mythologizing scenes that bear some yet-to-be-articulated significance in the emergent coherence of the narrative we call self. As a way of re-living the past, nostalgia is self-defeating: the substrate moment was never suffused with the same air of portent and never as invested in its own mythic perpetuation. But, with alacrity, we believe the pleasant deception that our lives were ever anything beyond an ongoing process of coping and improvisation.
Whereas, in considering the future, we allay the anxieties that attach to its ineluctable uncertainty by clinging to the hopefulness of possibility, in considering the past, we distract ourselves from our failures (or worse, our unsound successes) by embracing and monumentalizing the fact of its fixity. Of course we do—fixity is our reward for having endured the dissonance between our lofty ambitions and their necessarily incomplete consummation.
The moment I inhabit when I listen back to CHAMBERS is a pleasant one. I enjoy re-enacting the experience of wonder for the possibilities in my life that it summons: the possibilities of a new city, the possibilities of intellectual and aesthetic experimentation, and the possibilities of the beautiful and exhilarating community of individuals in which I found myself. That moment as I now re-live it undoubtedly never existed, but it is no worse for having been as provisional and halting in its time as the present moment is in its. Alongside the happily deluded indulgence of its mythologization, I will celebrate the memory of its complexity and its imperfection, and of the complex and imperfect people that lived it alongside me.