The British avant-garde composer and experimental artist Christopher James Chaplin studied piano in Vevey (Switzerland) before moving to London in the early 1980s.
In 2009, he was invited by Michael Martinek and Fabrique Records to work with the artist Kava on “Seven Echoes“ – a concept album released and first presented live at the art brut museum gugging in Lower Austria. There he encountered the pioneer of electronic music Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Cluster, Harmonia), who later invited Christopher to participate in a “Late Junction” live session for BBC Radio 3. The result of this second collaboration eventually led to another album – “King of Hearts”. In the following years, Chaplin and Roedelius performed all over the world: mostly improvised performances with Roedelius on piano and electronics and Chaplin on synthesizers and orchestral samples.
In October 2016, Christopher Chaplin’s acclaimed first solo album “Je suis le Ténébreux” was released – with guest artists such as Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Christine Roedelius, Judith Chemla or Claudia Schumann – some of which had been recorded in Air’s legendary Paris Atlas Studio. While Chaplin’s first album was an artistic interpretation of Gérard de Nerval’s poem of the same name and the “Enigma of Bologna”, his second longplayer “Paradise Lost” (2018) translated John Milton’s poem about the descent of fallen angels into hell into epic soundscapes. This album features the voices of Nathan Vale and Leslie Winer. Vale is a British tenor and reciter, who specialises in baroque singing. The US musician, poet and artist Winer is almost his opposite number: Jean-Paul Gaultier described her as the first androgynous role model, who worked with Sinéad O’Connor, Grace Jones and Helmut Lang, among others.
Alongside his studio recordings Christopher continued to play numerous collaborative and improvised live shows with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and other artists such as Icelandic electronic music trio Stereo Hypnosis. Based on these live improvisations an ambient album “Bjarmi” was recorded in Hvammstangi, northern Iceland and released in 2018.
With his latest solo work “M“ (2020), Chaplin doesn’t only connect musically to his two predecessors, but takes it to the top with virtuosity and wit. Anew, he manages to condense experimental and colourful electronics in a unique way in chamber music and back again, transporting the listener to intermediate mental and spatiotemporal states. A completely autonomous musical microcosm, which can also be experienced in his impressive solo live performances.
Christopher Chaplin – album “M”
A work of art, situated between experimental electronic music and avant-garde. The crowning glory of an album trilogy with an over-theme that couldn’t fit better into our time – change and transformation.
Following the celebrated solo albums “Je suis le Ténébreux” (2016) and “Paradise Lost” (2018) by Christopher James Chaplin, the London-based avant-garde musician and composer released his third solo album “M” in June 2020. It’s an epic and multi-layered composition for which Chaplin once again draws on age-old texts, whose power of content is timeless. For this special album project, he once more brought top-class guest artists into his studio: BRIT Award winner Finley Quaye, the exceptional Austrian musician and songwriter Mira Lu Kovacs and acclaimed artist and performer Aurelia Thierree.
Christopher Chaplin: “The M album is about change. The letter “M” refers to the Hebrew letter Mem, which, in the alphabet of Kabbalah, points to the origin of many words such as: mother, womb, birth, water, flood, death; and through its gematria (the number 40), Mem is linked to quarantine and transformation. The album consists of three tracks containing verses taken from three different poems: Metamorphosis by Ovid, Full Fathom Five by Shakespeare, and Mutability by Percy Bysshe Shelley.”
“I’ve been really fortunate, during the writing of this album, to have met Finley Quaye. It resulted in him contributing so invaluably to the track Metamorphosis. I’ve also been thrilled to feature the wonderful singing voice of Mira Lu Kovacs in the track A Sea Change as well as having Carl Michael von Hausswolff’s permission to use a sample from his sonic extraction of the HIV virus DNA chain. In the third and final track, Mutability, I am joined by Aurelia Thierree in speaking some lines from Percy Shelley’s poem of the same title. Its last line of that poem was the catalyst for this whole M album: “Nought may endure but Mutability.”
With “Enosh” and “Jared”, Chaplin is now releasing the first precursors for his next major album project “Patriarchs”, which is due for release in autumn 2021. It will be based on the ten antediluvian Patriarchs, from Adam to Noah. More details coming soon.
(photo © Florian Kalotay)
Extreme Chill Festival, Reykjavik (IS)