TO:124 Richard Chartier – ‘On Leaving’

Artist: Richard Chartier
Title: On Leaving
Formats: CD & Digital Download
Catalogue Number: TO:124
Street date: 24th May 2024

You can pre-order this CD album here

Track Listing:

1. variance.1
2. variance.2
3. variance.3
4. variance.4
5. variance.a

Mastered by Denis Blackham
Photography & design: Jon Wozencroft

About Richard Chartier

Richard Chartier is a Los Angeles-based artist/composer considered one of the key figures in minimalist sound art. Chartier’s works explore the inter-relationships between the spatial nature of sound, silence, focus, perception, and the act of listening itself.

Since 1998 Chartier’s critically acclaimed sound works have been published on labels including Room40, Editions Mego, Important Records, Touch/Ash International, mAtter, Raster-Noton, 901 Editions, his own imprint LINE.

He has collaborated with William Basinski, ELEH, France Jobin, Robert Curgenven, Taylor Deupree, AGF, CoH, Yann Novak, Asmus Tietchens. As Pinkcourtesyphone he has collaborated with Cosey Fanni Tutti, Kid Congo Powers, harpist Gwyneth Wentink, AGF, and Evelina Domnitch.

Chartier’s sound works/installations have been presented in museums and galleries internationally. His performances have occurred live across Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. Chartier’s compositions have accompanied dance works by noted choreographers Ohad Naharin, Cristina Caprioli, Dustin Klein, and Marco Blazquez).

Since 2000, Chartier has curated his influential label LINE, publishing over 150 editions documenting the compositional and installation work of international sound artists and composers who explore the aesthetics of contemporary and digital minimalism.

the tree in a breeze
too much movement to focus
on a single leaf

dedicated to Steve Roden (1964-2023)

For over a quarter of a century, sound artist and composer Richard Chartier has interrogated an ever deepening thread of minimalist sound that meshes questions of stasis, pulse and timbre. The results of this work is some of the most quietly intense compositions of this century. His is a music of subtle variation, unwavering concentration, and also patience. This five part work created between 2020 and 2022 is dedicated to his friend and fellow sound artist Steve Roden.

“I first became friends with Steve Roden (and later his wife, Sari) back in 1998 when my first album ‘direct.incidental.consequential’ was released. He was one of the first group of artists to whom I sent the album. Almost instantly he had been there on the other side of the phone (or email) and ever since.

His way of listening and attention to details (no matter how small) was inspirational — the clarity and complexity of his understated and only seemingly simple compositions, engaging. Underneath it all, ‘the less’ truly opened your ears to ‘the more.’ Steve saw and heard everything between the noise, no matter how faint.

Some of the last times I was able to see Steve were right before the pandemic. The effects of his advancing Alzheimers were present, still somewhat subtle, but increasing. I am still regretful that we were unable to spend more time together prior to his succumbing to his condition’s cruel effects. Another regret is not engaging in the collaboration we had both talked about for YEARS. ‘We should really start on that sometime soon’ Steve and I would say with each passing year.

I worked on the compositions included on this album as Steve gradually slipped away from communication. He was not in my life like he had been before. During this time it became apparent that these pieces were for Steve. A reflection of his ability to find beauty in the most minute details. Even when finally reviewing the final masters after his passing, I tried to think about how Steve would listen.

What would Steve hear in the details? His effect on this album is strong… the accumulation of influence and inspiration. This album feels organic and warm and was developed during a time when his absence in my life increased. That warmth is reflective of the nature of who Steve was himself, his friendship, and his visual & sound work.

on listening… on loss… on leaving…

As Steve and I mutually suggested… for quiet amplification or headphone listening.”


Boomkat (UK):

Dedicated to his fellow sound artist Steve Roden, Richard Chartier’s Touch debut is a quiet contemplation that zeroes in on the microscopic details, bringing rough, inclement textures out slowly from somnolent, psychoactive drones.

When Roden passed away last year, Chartier was already almost finished with ‘On Leaving’. The two artists had been friends since 1988, when Chartier had released his first album, and had been close ever since. So when Chartier visited Roden before the pandemic, and observed how he was slipping away from the effects of Alzheimers, he realized could reflect Roden’s impact on his life with a series of contemplative compositions. This is patient, cryptically complex material, and some of the most stealthily emotional work Chartier has penned to date. It’s an album that’s minimal – Chartier asks us to listen on headphones or at the very least at a low volume – but not without movement. Like Roden, Chartier exerts a meditational level of focus on his soundscapes, coaxing us into deep listening with subtle rhythms and tonal shifts that occur almost imperceptibly.

This isn’t music that can be skipped through or placed in the background, it requires attention – the kind of concentration that can bring out its oblique movements and furtive textures. The first 10-minute piece is surprisingly organic; it’s not obvious what Chartier’s source material might be, but the gustiness suggests the outdoor environment or at the very least, some kind of obsolete technology. He cautiously blurs in synthetic sounds, never overwhelming the atmosphere with drama, but retaining a pregnant nervousness that shifts into the center of the frame on the thrumming ‘variance.2’. And by ‘variance.4’ the noise has subsided completely, leaving raw, undulating sub bass that curves underneath barely perceptible synth quivers. It’s a charming but unrelentingly intense analysis of loss and regret that doesn’t ever forget the humanity and warmth of its subject.

Igloo (USA):

Richard Chartier’s On Leaving is an excellent album comprised of subtle, minimal, old-school drone pieces dedicated to the late Steve Roden. “Variance.1” begins as a light noise whir accompanied by glitchy, reverberant clicks. Gradually an oscillating two-tone pattern, run through a sort of flange effect, is added—hearkening back to music from the original peak of drone music, before the turn of the millennium. “Meshing questions of stasis, pulse and timbre,” as the press-release states accurately.

“Variance.3” starts with a lower-pitched murmur. Washes of noise, in soothing cycles, are mixed with this low drone. The track is calming both in that the humming sounds are consistent and cycle with some regularity. The volume increases throughout, and about halfway through, a sense of progression is suggested by the appearance of a higher-pitched tone.

“Variance.4” also begins with a deep, steady vibration. Listening more carefully, we begin to notice subtle, higher harmonics. A deeper oscillation cycle is brought forward, throwing the static nature of the drone in question. Tonal phrases are combined, resulting in a humming pulse. The track ends with a graceful, slow fade.

Overall, On Leaving contains a set of vintage variances, soothing drone tracks that are in ways abstract yet deceptively organic in nature. Minimal composition together with low pitches and recursive sets of sound contribute to this soothing effect.

ambientblog (NL):

Of course, Richard Chartier and Pinkcourtesyphone are the same person – but there is a distinct difference in the music released under these names. As Pinkcourtesyphone, Chartier presents a somewhat ‘tongue-in-cheek’ side of music, more emotional, with perhaps some slightly ‘campy’ themes. Or, as Chartier himself says: ‘more musical’. But Pinkcouresyphone’s output should be taken as seriously as the work released under his own name – which is a sound art more minimal, spatial, and abstract perhaps.

With these two (almost simultaneously released) new albums the differences (as well as the similarities) can easily be explored.

On Leaving is dedicated to Steve Roden, who died in 2023, suffering from Alzheimer: “Steve saw and heard everything between the noise, no matter how faint”.
“I worked on the compositions included on this album as Steve gradually slipped away from communication. He was not in my life like he had been before. […] on listening… on loss… on leaving…”

With this background in mind, the five variances get a dark touch, but in itself, the music is free of such emotional value. It is also intensely quiet and peaceful. The ‘implied silence, finely structured and in some cases cyclical’ requires listening at low volumes or on headphones.
One question remains, however: ‘What would Steve hear in the details’?