John Cantler Credit: Dawid Laskowski

While in New York in January I caught a performance by Stockholm-based sound artist John Chantler, who hunkered down behind a small table outfitted with two small analog synthesizers and a computer. The set began with pinging electronic sounds that flickered about, then gained in density, volume, and physicality as the minutes passed, eventually transforming from a pleasant ambient splatter of electronic starbursts into a punishing din that toggled between assaultive and enveloping. His recent album Which Way to Leave? (Room40) conveys that same sensation as it moves between tones that needle and throb like live wire and quiet gurgles that seem afraid to be heard. Not long after the record’s release in August, Chantler told Pitchfork’s Marc Masters and Grayson Currin that in light of the recent administration’s clampdowns on refugees and asylum seekers the relevance of his open-question album title had shifted: “The title for me increasingly signals thoughts about the trauma of this specific kind of leaving.” Chantler’s intangible electronic ’scapes—sometimes violent, sometimes serene—reflect the unpredictability that seems to be swallowing the world whole, where nothing is given and truth has become blurred. His is a pulsating and grueling onslaught that brooks no ambivalence. This is his Chicago debut.   v

John Chantler – Fixation-Pulse (Forest Version) from ROOM40 on Vimeo.