Metaphysical by ChumRelease date: April 7, 2023
Label: cracked ankles
Seemingly the result of new age, car-boot occultism, Metaphysical is a heady mix of thick organ sounds and driving beats with a faintly unsettling intensity of focus. It manifests the buzz of obsolete electronics and the stale warmth of artificial fibres using salt lamp séances and the shadow maths of the mullet. Warped vinyl, old magazines on the supernatural and the taste of corduroy. Welcome to the strange and baffling world of Chum. Who are they, what do they want and should we guard ourselves against them?
What we might casually regard as a garage psych combo, they describe themselves as “Retrospective Prognosticators, Mindless Psychoanalysts, Charlatan Ritualists.” A set of identifications as flamboyant as it is difficult to refute. Unlike their dubious claim to be from London.
‘Casual Body’ starts with swirling space-synth drones and an ominous voice intoning in back, gravid with unclear intentions. At around two minutes a brisk snare snaps in, joined by jabbing organ. It grips an unswerving momentum, dragging increasingly chaotic clamour in its wake as it goes. What it might be about is unclear, you can only make out mutterings about “the gathering of sacred stones”. Sold out debut single ‘Beefcake Doctrine’ appears to be a motivational work out mantra delivered deadpan over a repeating riff and urgent grind. It’s grimly hilarious, like a transport cafe Devo, as much beef suet as beefcake. Once again they slop an extra helping of noise on at the end so they remember to stop. This is the basic Chum sound, locked groove organ sludge with dark opaque vocals driven along by crisp unfussy drums and bass rumble.
It feels daft to call it minimalist, too wonky and raw, but they keep the elements simple, short looping riffs and lots of rich droning notes. Creating drama from small shifts and melodic motifs, building intensity with layers of noise. The organ is constantly cranked into the red, they love to hear its sound fraying. On ‘Gold Star’, a powering groove of thick kraut-psych potency, it’s so overheated, you can smell the burning dust. You know this lot are going to be great fun live. While they generally follow that unstoppable motorik logic, on ‘Social Animal’ they mix it up with a quick breakdown where everything grinds to a halt for a moment before hitting full force and railing off in high gear.
They’re a bit like a K-Tel Kraftwerk hitting the cans, or maybe Vanilla Fudge playing The Ramones. But under grey British skies. Their sound feels cramped, with more sense than to look for the horizon. The monomaniac beat finally lets up on ‘Annul’, a moody soundscape of drones and part time ghosts. It smells of charity shop treasure. Dust in its lungs. A damp living room watched over by the clock on the mantel. Curdled sounds, tapping lost undercurrents. Their strong retro thread is not rose tinted nostalgia, more a repurposing of available materials. Worn and weirdly discoloured, misused for their obsessive and obscure purpose.
If they are indeed from London then they were born amongst the late 20th century detritus washing up at Old Spitalfields market. At odds with the thrum of the city, at home in the shadow of Hawksmoor’s spire. Chum are the kind of weirdos you know are out there, they just don’t often show themselves. More in thrall to Jon Lord than Tony Iommi, in the municipal playground of the UK underground they aren’t smoking weed with the Hawkwind kids or talking about public information films with the nice hauntology boys but off on their own. Dabbling in dark forces they cannot hope to understand they have hit upon a winning combination. Top breeders recommend it.