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Concert Tue Oct 05 2010

Chapterhouse Returns, Closes Final Chapter in Chicago

[This review and photos come to us from Taleen Kalenderian.]

"You're never gonna see us again," cried Stephen Patman of Reading, England's shoegazers Chapterhouse, after an hour-and-a-half set of emotional and aural highs. The band kicked off their last ever tour at Lincoln Hall to a nearly sold-out crowd at midnight Saturday, playing Chicago for the first time in 16 years.

Part of the '90s shoegaze "Scene That Celebrates Itself" known for its "fluff-on-the-needle" sound, Chapterhouse formed in 1987 by Patman and fellow singer-guitarist Andrew Sherriff. The band toured with Spacemen 3 before releasing their first album, Whirlpool, which hit number 23 on the U.K. charts in 1991. They disbanded shortly after the onslaught of mainstream Brit-pop and stateside grunge, as well as a lawsuit with their 1993 acid-house album Blood Music (oft-compared to Primal Scream's 1991 LP, Screamadelica).

Chapterhouse_Patman.jpg
Chapterhouse's Stephen Patman (photo by Taleen Kalenderian)

It's tough not to recall the 2008 My Bloody Valentine reunion at All Tomorrow's Parties New York Festival, when the 'gazer gods reunited for their first U.S. show in 16 years. The Jesus and Mary Chain also reunited in 2007, making Chapterhouse the most obscure end of the scene's revival spectrum--a wave that has been prompted partly by the resurgence of nugaze bands and 2nd generation fans in the latter half of the 2000s.

Chapterhouse_Schnauss.jpg
Ulrich Schnauss (photo by Taleen Kalenderian)

German electronica musician and producer Ulrich Schnauss joined Chicago's Airiel at the end of their set and segued into his own 45-minute whirlwind of Robin Guthrie-inspired drone meditations. Schnauss steadily pruned his synth knobs throughout the set and crackled into and out of acid-house grooves, with visual projections of cityscapes behind him and the crowd swaying throughout. Even while arriving at a thundercloud finish, he didn't break a sweat.

Chapterhouse_guitars.jpg
photo by Taleen Kalenderian

After the Schnauss set, six guitars were set up onstage (a Gretsch, a Jazzmaster, a Rickenbacker, a Telecaster, a 12-string Fender, and an acoustic guitar). One guy close to tears kept tapping everyone on the shoulder proclaiming his Chapterhouse fandom. Another recalled seeing the band the last time they played Chicago in 1991 at Metro, when "you could barely see them because of the fog machines, but it sounded amazing...a crazy wall of sound."

Wall of sonic bliss was more like it. Chapterhouse entered the stage with four guitarists facing their amps, which shrieked through the looming psych-jam intro "Ecstasy II" and shifted right into the familiar drum roll on "Treasure." They played other Whirlpool classics such as the surging, dreary waltz "April," and favorites "Then We'll Rise" and "Precious One" from the Mesmerise EP.

Halfway through the set, the band played a hypnotizing cover of The Beatles' "Rain," which Sherriff cheekily introduced, saying "This one's by somebody else." For a moment, sounds appeared to mellow out with the melancholic "Autosleeper," but guitars synapsed into high-register breakdowns within the otherwise slow-tempo song.

Chapterhouse_Sherriff.jpg
Chapterhouse's Andrew Sherriff (photo by Taleen Kalenderian)

Everybody wanted to hear the band's third single "Pearl," but after a teaser they played "Breather" instead. Live, the jangly Whirlpool intro was yet another Chapterhouse gem escalating into a wash of breathy overtones and guitar riffs dancing atop one another. When they finally played "Pearl," it was sadly cut in half due to laptop problems.

The band played several bonus tracks before returning for an encore, joined by Schnauss on keyboard for the Blood Music hit, "Love Forever" (which he had covered in 2008). The set ended with "Pearl," played properly and in full--a beautiful, bittersweet gesture, as many of the fans had waited years to hear it again for the last time.

The reunion continues for a week, moving on to New York, Boston, Toronto, Los Angeles, and a final show in San Francisco. Chapterhouse will be joined by Schnauss and local nugazers from each city such as 28 Degrees Taurus, Dead Leaf Echo and A Place to Bury Strangers.

-Taleen Kalenderian

 
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eric / October 11, 2010 11:14 AM

There was absolutely nothing acid about Schnauss' set. No 303, no 101, no resonance on the synth patches, just a shrill digital sheen on Reaktor patches with a USB knob box on the side of the Macbook. Occasionally he got up and played a controller keyboard. I've seen more interesting power point presentations.

(Also, the Mary Chain wasn't part of the shoegaze scene, they came out of the Manchester scene.)

Nichola / October 12, 2010 7:02 PM

(Also, the Mary Chain wasn't part of the shoegaze scene, they came out of the Manchester scene.)

Still pissing myself at this comment!

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