How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Djam Karet member Gayle Ellett's side project - The Maskit Chamber - has managed to release two CDs in 2001, the weak "one-track pony" The 4th Wave, and today's subject for review, Heaven Chamber. Consisting of some decent guitar work totally ruined by uninspired composition, clichéd keyboards, and some very poor drum programming, Heaven Chamber turns out to be more of an exercise in patience than a memorable listening experience. For all its attempts at emotion, Heaven Chamber turns out to be quite mundane.
The CD kicks off with the oddly-titled track "Italian Horror Movie Soundtrack #6" - a tune that sounds a lot like what you'd get if you slipped some acid in a hockey arena organist's water. Its plodding bass line and two-chord motif mixed with some very sub par drum samples equals a song that spends 7 minutes going absolutely nowhere. Unfortunately, things don't get much better - the rest of the CD is mostly filled with music-store demo quality keyboard samples, awful drum patches, and boring melodies. Ellett does try to mix things up a bit with tracks such as the ersatz rocker "6% Solution" and oriental-tinged "Free Tibet", but the happy-hour keyboard/drum samples sound totally destroys any hope of these songs getting off the ground.
At the bottom of the barrel we have the embarrassing "Bill & Monica Shuffle" - a mixture of bad keyboard samples complete with accompanying sound bites from Clinton and Lewinsky themselves. This is an example of a "gimmick" song where the gimmick just doesn't work. The "whimsical" keyboards come across as juvenile, the drum machine is just as bad as it is on the other tracks, and the sound bites add nothing to the song. And just when you though that you've had enough of political statements, you get thrown into "Kosovo", a track that combines an unnerving and dissonant chord progression with more CNN-style sound bites from the war in Kosovo. One song like this is one too many, to place two tracks featuring Bill Clinton back to back is unexplainable. I just can't imagine that anyone would find listening to such sonic drivel interesting in the least.
Despite being for the most part disappointing, there are a few nice moments on Heaven Chamber. On "English Countryside", Ellett manages to evoke memories of "And Then There Were Three"-era Genesis with some lush keyboard sounds and smooth guitar work. On "Floating Arpeggios", there is a very tasteful oboe-sample that pops up in the middle of the song giving it temporary life before the song is dragged back down into mediocrity. Some of Ellett's guitar work is decent throughout the album, but you simply cannot play acceptable rock guitar in front of what basically sounds like demo-songs from a Casio keyboard.
In short, I really have to look hard to find anything redeeming about Heaven Chamber, and with so much other good music out there today, why should I - or anyone else - even bother trying?
Track Listing: 1. Italian Horror Movie Soundtrack #6 (7:17) 2. English Countryside (6:35) 3. Mosaic 2000 (4:32) 4. Floating Arpeggios (3:37) 5. Free Tibet (5:21) 6. Transcendental Medication (5:28) 7. Bill & Monica Shuffle (5:27) 8. Kosovo (5:11) 9. 6% Solution (4:17) 10. Indian in the City (4:57)
Personnel: All music performed, arranged, and composed by Gayle Ellett