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Chuzzlewit - Secret Affinities

  by Chris Jones

published: 17 / 12 / 2001



Chuzzlewit - Secret Affinities
Label: Chuzzlewit
Format: CD

intro

In the past few weeks I've had a number of people ask me what were my favourite albums of the year 2000. and while my list consists of bands that I don't expect many people to know, the albums can a


In the past few weeks I've had a number of people ask me what were my favourite albums of the year 2000. and while my list consists of bands that I don't expect many people to know, the albums can at least be found at good record stores around the world. One glaring exception to that statement however is Chuzzlewit's 'Secret Affinities'. Chuzzlewit is Greg Prickman and he has been releasing music under the Chuzzlewit name since 1995. The early Chuzzlewit releases were cassettes with Greg's inspiration being the Xpressway tapes from the 80's and 90's. At least 10 cassettes were released, though I have a feeling you had to be at the right place at the right time to know about most of these cassettes. Fortunately, one of these cassettes somehow made it's way to Earworm records which resulted in two releases in 1998 - the 'Snowflakes Fly' 7 inch and the 'A Map of Maybes' CD (which compiles tracks from some of the earlier cassettes). These are the releases that introduced me to Chuzzlewit and made me realize that I needed to find out more about this band. Info on Chuzzlewit seemed to be non-existent, so I had to be content with listening to 'A Map of Maybes' and waiting to hear more from the band. Being content with listening to 'A Map of Maybes' was pretty easy to do as there is some great work on the CD. The Chuzzlewit sound is very intimate and surely this has to do with the fact that these are home recordings made by one person. Both the trappings and blessings of home recording are present on the CD: lo-fi production, rawness, immediacy, the sense that your reading someone's journal, repitition, musical progression, intimacy. 1999 saw the release of the 'North Atlantic' 7 inch on Sticky Records. When I heard the title song it made me feel like Greg had really come into his own as both a singer/songwriter and a producer. 'North Atlantic' seemed much fuller and more developed than most of the songs on 'A Map…'and it also had great female backing vocals courtesy of Beth Arzy (ex-Aberdeen). I later found out from Greg that 'North Atlantic' was recorded around the same time as many of then songs on 'A Map…' , so I guess I wasn't really witnessing what I thought I was, but so be it - the results were there and the song spoke for itself. Despite the fact that Chuzzlewit now had some releases out in wider circulation than the early cassettes, these were still limited releases of 500 copies each. I still think it's odd that releases that I think are really good are limited to such small numbers. I mean, it's a shame that me and 499 other people are the only ones with these releases! That's just crazy. And that brings us to 'Secret Affinities"' one might think that after getting releases on Earworm and Sticky that the next Chuzzlewit release would see at least the same level of circulation, if not more. An email message posted on the indiepop-list was how I found out that 'Secret Affinities' existed and that email message was posted by Greg. I think the message actually said something like, "for the 12 people on the list that might care, there is a new CD from Chuzzlewit." I sure hope there were more than 12 people who cared and more than 12 people who went to the Chuzzlewit web site (www.chuzzlewit.net) to find out more about the CD. Instead of being released by a label, 'Secret Affinities' is a CD-r affair being made by Greg himself. His plan is to make about 100 copies and see where it goes from there. Hmm, going back to the spirit of his self-made cassettes I suppose. Well, after listening to the opening track 'Copernican', I was thrilled to be hearing from Chuzzlewit again and I sure hope Greg has to make far more than 100 copies of the CD. If I had to name a favorite song from the year 2000, 'Copernican' would be right up there at the top battling it out with songs from Cody, Mojave 3, Moose, and maybe a few other bands. and 'Copernican' might just win that battle too. The droney guitar noises and feedback at the beginning of the song are right up my mellow, shoegazey pop alley and the vocals seem far more confident than before. The intimate feel is still there, but the production seems much more refined. This is the kind of somber song that seems like it could explode at any minute going into some fuzzed out noise and feedback routine, yet it manages to contain that urge. Ah, subtle tension. The guitar/keyboard tones on 'A Sparrow in Short' have a dreamy quality to them that contrasts nicely with the programmed drum track. This is the kind of song that sounds even better with the stereo turned up loud, but it's not the kind of music you'd expect to hear being played loudly. Guess that's whyI often listen to this album with my headphones on. There seems to be quite a bit of experimentation on this album and I think that makes it stand above 'A Map…' by quite a bit. where most of the songs on 'A Map…' sounded like they could have been made by one person, '"Secret Affinities' sounds more like the work of a band. I don't know really know how to describe what I mean by that or why that would be a good thing. The songs just seem fuller, more vibrant, and more diverse than before and I guess that would be easier to explain if there were 2 or 3 more people in the band. The song 'North Atlantic' reappears on the CD in what i am told is a 'slightly clearer mix' than the 7 inch version. It sounds just as beautiful to me and i've yet to play the two versions back to back. I'm not sure if Beth Arzy has done vocals on any other songs with Greg, but I think their voices go very well together and I would love to hear more from the two of them. If '"Copernican' were not on the album, I think 'Paper the Case' would have been my favoruite song. There's a very cool guitar line at the beginning with some odd, echo-y voices buried in the background that I think must be from an old radio/TV broadcast. The song flows along very softly and the vocals just seem much more assured than on the earlier releases. The stilted drum beat on 'People are Never Static'could almost be from a slowed down jungle track and as the beat stumbles forward there is a guitar tone that chimes in with the beat throughout the song. The two work incredibly well together and the droney tones only added to my enjoyment factor. While from a distribution standpoint this CD is somewhat of a step back for Chuzzlewit, 'Secret Affinities' seems to show a great deal of musical growth and improved production skills. Maybe that perceived progression isn't really there from a chronological perspective, but when comparing the songs on 'A Map..' to the songs on 'Secret Affinities' it seems that way. These songs manage to continue the intimate tone set by the earlier releases, yet they sound much fuller too. I still feel like I could be reading someone's journal entries, but now it's like there are pictures that go along with the words. I'm thrilled that Greg Prickman has created one of my favourite albums from the year 2000 and I'm somewhat saddened that he went so far as to burn the CD-r too. This is an album that deserves to be heard by far more than 100 people.



Track Listing:-
1 Coperican
2 Brighter Stars
3 A Sparrow In Short
4 Sea Change
5 Bells Above The Streets
6 North Atlantic
7 Serpentine Walls
8 Under The Skylights
9 Paper The Case
10 People Are Never Static
11 Down The Garden Path
12 Taking Care



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interviews


Interview Part 1 (2002)
Chuzzlewit - Interview Part 1
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Interview Part 2 (2002)


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