Little Penguin - Chromosphere - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Little Penguin - Chromosphere

by Daryl Worthington Rating:8.5 Release Date:2012-10-15

Southend's Graham Boosey has been experimenting with the outer-fringes of electronic music for a few years now, trying his hand at harsh noise, epic space-drones, and composing on a Gameboy Camera. Through his various projects, he has been hugely prolific with output on a variety of tape and netlabels. Chromosphere is his first full-length album and, perhaps most unexpectedly of all for a musician with such an eccentric breadth of interests, this album is defined by the melodic and emotional possibilities it extracts from electronic music.

The opening and closing tracks of Chromosphere are titled 'Chow Pt.1 and Pt.2' respectively. They are a good starting point to show what makes this album so unique. Both tracks begin with an eerie swooshing noise which misleads the listener into expecting something for more 'difficult' than they are about to hear. Both parts are built on playful, naïve melodies played on what sounds like a casio approximation of a xylophone.

The two tracks reach similar crescendos as walls of cinematic synths are added to the initial melody. The tools of the Little Penguin project are ones associated with electronic and dance music. However, Boosey has used these tools to achieve the most unlikely outcome. Both parts of 'Chow' are built on a pure, innocent and almost childlike sense of melody and are as comparable to Reiko Kudo's compositions as they are to the likes of Aphex Twin or Emeralds.

Although the album is clearly built upon the sequencing and looping traditionally associated with electronic music, the imagination on display never allows the track structures to become predicable. 'Adnap' is constructed out of a few simple components: A shoegazey, reverb-saturated synth part, a cheap drum-machine beat and a twinkling melodic arpeggio. This is gracefully extended into a six-minute song by dynamic changes and the sheer addictiveness of the melodies. Like The Vaselines' 'Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam', the repetition of a single hook is enough. Parts of the song are dropped in and taken away to give a sense of movement, and the strength of the melody and groove means that, like a Neu! motorik jam, it feels as though it should never end.

Like Boosey, I was brought up in Southend. Whether it was intended or it's just my subconscious making associations due to the shared experience, to me these songs are reflective of the declining seaside town. 'Polaris' is built on a contrast (a polarisation?). The song's core is a mechanical oscillating note which runs through the track, the audio equivalent of a flickering neon light.

Over the top, distorted synths and keys play a soaring, grandiose melody while a plodding, looped synth provides a more sedate sense of movement. To me this song evokes the Southend seafront, the bright neon lights and frantic electricity of the arcades and amusements facing out onto the vast calm of the Thames estuary. 'Puce Moment', with its spacey drones played alongside a pretty piano melody, captures the bizarre contrast between brightness and colour of a modern seaside town, and the eerie sense of decay present in them.

The last few years have been particularly exciting ones for the development of experimental electronic music, with the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, Actress, Andy Stott and Emeralds all testing the boundaries of the genre and opening it to new possibilities. Little Penguin's achievement on his debut album is to make something which is just as full of character and adventure. Although perhaps not showcasing the same invention and sense of experimentation of the above, his album captures a sweet innocence that isn't normally found in electronic music, and it comes so unexpectedly that, in its own unique way, it is just as important.

The innovation of somebody like Daniel Johnston or The Moldy Peaches comes from absence, their ability to deconstruct pop music into its most basic and necessary emotional elements. Chromosphere does something very similar to electronic music.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet