The Chap — Digital Technology (10 Jan., 2020)
Location: London and Berlin
Genres: Pop, indietronica
Album release: 10 January 2020
Record Label: Lo Recordings
01. Bring Your Dolphin 4:07
02. Pea Shore 4:30
03. I Am The Emotion 2:43
04. I Recommend You Do The Same 4:57
05. Loaded Words 3:59
06. Merch 3:50
07. Toothless Fuckface 5:52
08. Hard 5:06
09. Help Mother 3:00
10. Don’t Say It Like That 4:06
° Keith Duncan — drums, vocals, keyboards
° Panos Ghikas — bass, vocals, guitar, violin, computer, keyboards
° Claire Hope — keyboards, vocals, melodica
° Berit Immig — keyboards, vocals (also plays in band Omo)
° Johannes von Weizsäcker — guitar, vocals, cello, computer, keyboards
° In the near future, when algorithms have feelings, they will write all our music. When they try to write pop music that sounds like it was made by talented Europeans in 2018, it might sound something like Digital Technology, the seventh full~length album by The Chap, recorded and produced by the band in London and Berlin over the past three years.
° Following 2015’s The Show Must Go — The Chap’s foray into the world of the political rock song — Digital Technology is arguably the band’s most beautiful album to date, exploring abysses both personal and de~personalised, looking inward or into vast open space rather than onto a concrete political arena.
° Closing track Don’t say it like that, repeating its title phrase over and over while a techno beat pounds and easy synth arpeggios dissolve into sad ambience, could be viewed from different perspectives: a couple arguing, a parent reprimanding a child, a social media comment on hate speech.
° Bring your dolphin, on the other hand, is a mildly surreal and melancholy pop song about dolphins, romance and world~weariness, yet the band insist it contains a death penalty reference.
° So, beneath lush ambiences lurks darkness, and in violent disintegration lies beautiful fun. Pea shore is fast but dreamy. It claims that “poetry is not for me in your face”. I am the emotion takes to heart The Chap’s early mission statement of seeking to create music that “sounds wrong”: a kind of wordy world~techno~pop anthem about emotional emancipation, sung by grandad after he just discovered autotune. Classic Chap! As are nightmare disco anthems like Merch, I recommend you do the same or Toothless fuckface.
° But elsewhere, the algorhithm shows a more conciliatory side: „Help mother/ with her stuff“, it implores on Help mother. And it truly nails existential futility on Hard.
° It’s impossible not to get sucked into Digital Technology. Like its title, it sounds and feels like an outdated promise, a contemporary anxiety and a really weird future — almost like the outlook of a teenager. You know, back when confusion and sadness were still a lot of fun.
° Digital Technology is the seventh full~length release by muso~absurdists, The Chap. They are a band’s band. This is both a good and a bad thing: it demonstrates their musical ability and imagination, but potentially this cleverness can get in the way of a broader appeal.
…The Chap are refreshing, because they ignore completely that part of popular music culture that values trauma, depth and seriousness above all other things. They are willing to be playful — funny even. While comedy music still remains a poor cousin of more serious efforts, The Chap never quite stray into flat~out stupidity. They are not a comedy band, but much of what they do seems to have a sarcastic raised eyebrow or a cheeky wink. This never comes across as gauche or irritating, because they are just really good at it. It’s wit without smugness, and it’s cleverness without arrogance.
° This album is framed as what AI music would sound like if it tried to “make pop music that sounds like it was made by talented Europeans in 2018”. There is a twinkle of confident self~mockery here, and the description deftly turns attention to their skill. This is their great selling point. Yes, they are witty, but it’s musicianship and quality that are the primary currencies here. The musical quotation evident is flawlessly observed. The running ostinatos of ‘Pea shore’ are worthy of Glass or Reich as the subtle shifts in pattern work through the track in purely liquid fashion. Likewise, the savage synthesis of ‘I recommend you do the same’ becomes almost overwhelming. There is an almost sculptural hyperrealism to this music. It’s not pastiche — but like pastiche, even though it’s often comedic, it lacks ‘satirical impulse’ (to paraphrase Fredric Jameson). Jameson is an appropriate touchstone here, as The Chap are certainly postmodernists. The concept of the album alone pushes us toward this territory.
° The uneasy, near~dissonance of ‘Merch’ feels like the perfect soundtrack to our current flailing late capitalism. Relentless, abrasive and seductive. It feels as though there is indeed a serious side to the work, they’re just serious about different things to most pop writers. It feels a record absolutely embedded in its own time. “Hey, those boots won’t wear themselves — Hey, those tears are real, I know” seems to chime with the neurosis of the Instagram age. The Chap feel like the thinking person’s Ween. These moments of apparent sincerity are juxtaposed with the surreal pronouncements of other songs. “Touch yourself: bring your dolphin” they advise on the record’s baffling, yet charming opening track.
✹ 2003: The Horse (Lo Recordings)
✹ 2005: Ham (Lo Recordings)
✹ 2008: Mega Breakfast (Ghostly International/Lo Recordings)
✹ 2008: Builder’s Brew Mini~album (Lo Recordings)
✹ 2010: Well Done Europe (Lo Recordings)
✹ 2011: We Are the Best (Lo Recordings)
✹ 2012: We Are Nobody (Lo Recordings)
✹ 2015: The Show Must Go (Lo Recordings)
✹ 2020: Digital Technology (Lo Recordings)