Bob Burnett: In early February, the "trainscape" duet of Stephen Gardner and Ben Bailes (aka Chessie) will release Manifest on the Plug Research label, their first album since 2001's Overnight which landed them on The New York Times' Best of 2001 list. Manifest is their fourth full length release--fifth if you count Suburban Shore by Camping--a bossa nova-tinged project they were involved with which was reviewed on c60 about a year ago.
I suppose it would be nice to review a Chessie release without falling immediately into making reference to their being rooted in train-inspired soundscapes......however....that's what they do--- and that's what they do beautifully. Accusing Chessie of making too many "trainscapes" would be like saying Monet painted too many haystacks. Chessie creates music which integrates the feel and pulse of trains with sonic imaginary rail-based landscapes by using a wide range of musical colors. From shimmering guitars to subtle washes, Manifest is a complete album's worth of music; a wonderfully connected listening experience. The meticulous craft of their efforts shines effectively throughout; Stephen's guitar is warm and full, subtle chords mix with a wide range of textures to wash many compositions in lovely harmonies. In addition to the quiet, introspective moments, there are times of melodic (German band) Contriva-inspired popish phrases on Manifest which work wonderfully for me. Go to Chessie's webpage to hear a few Manifest selections. Chessie's myspace page offers a few cuts to listen to from past work--hopefully upon official release of Manifest they'll upload some new choices there too, plus the duo is planning to take Manifest on the road performing live.