Reviewed: Chafik Chennouf – Dual Aspect [Opal Tapes]

Words on contemporary releases. Seeking to offer an honest description of works which manage to exist in their own space and time.

Chafik Chennouf – Dual Aspect – Opal Tapes [2017]

Reviewed by Harry Castle

Chafik Chennouf is the label head and founder of the infamous Leyla Records. The Amsterdam based label quickly rose to the ranks within the underground techno scene. Since their first release back in 2015 by Manni Dee, Leyla have cemented themselves within the realms of dark, fast and eccentric techno. Leyla was named after the Arabic word associated with the idea of depth of night. The label has been formidable in its releases by an array of talented producers. This Opal tapes release has remained somewhat distant from his label’s high BPM mayhem. Unsurprising, as is often the case with Opal Tapes, pure sonic exploration is on the cards for “Dual Aspect”.

During a period of roughly 5 years, Opal Tapes has become synonymous with hefty distorted tracks. Existing in a space between dance music and headphones, it is a formidable label that has broken the boundaries of experimental electronic music to deliver a consistently intriguing sound. One notable aspect for this release is that, as Opal Tapes releases go, having such an array of remixes on one cassette is a rare sight to see.

Characterized by sub driven percussion melding imaginatively with droning screeches as we hear on his first track. Ferroequinologie, or the study of trains is as ominous as it is intriguing. A sonic collage of field recordings of a train storming through a Moroccan station and hypnotic chugging rhythms. An apt subject to base a track that seems to be marching forth with each percussion element, split through by this wailing call. This track represents the pallet that has been used by the artists who remixed it.

Hanneton is also remarkable, it uses unpredictable soft synth lines with dramatic lo fi elements. Glimpses of sequences and demented vocal elements make us think only dramatic events shall follow. This often cacophonous piece leaves us anxiously awaiting for the first remix of the release.

Lucy delivers a haunting take on Ferroequinologie. Rising and falling, psychotic and rhythmic, precisely executed. At the same time however, it seems somewhat out of place. With a release that focuses on more left leaning electronic soundscapes we are surprised to find that this structured and formulaic piece sits within the realms of the other tracks.

The second remix of the bunch is by Mondkopf, an artist that has been consistent and astounding in his most recent endeavours. His recent set at Shelter during the Leyla records showcase was a neurotic trip. Mondkopf remains truly multifaceted when it comes to avant-garde electronic music. Similarly structured to the original, this remix uses an ominous distorted synth lines and low fidelity effect to create this chugging noise focused offering. A distant, post apocalyptic feeling is served up to the listener to devour.

The final remix by Katsunori Sawa is a noise ridden ambient dub version of the track, maintaining this chugging train theme. The distant sounds seem to creep in and out from the silence and sub frequencies.

Finally, The Observer Effect is certainly a topical subject to touch on. We have all had to accept on some level or another to simply observe. Thoughts gain traction and we are manipulated into believing that our efforts will lead to change. We are always left observing the horrors that mankind has encouraged. This is a melancholic heart wrenching track akin to the ambient styles of certain Posh Isolation releases. Respite is given to the listener after the onslaught of the reinterpretations of Ferroequinologie.

This is the point at which one can truly appreciate the cinematic aspect to this release, and it is also here that one can feel the essence of dualistic unease that Chafik Chennouf has created through these soundscapes.