Replete with all the flair, shine, and cinematic attitude of jazz music’s ballroom past, Chalky lays down an incredibly delicious interpretation of nu jazz with grandiose compositional strength in his debut album Second Beach. Based out of Bristol, a city currently making tremendous strides in various musical directions, Chalky White is a multi-instrumentalist steeped in a lifetime of aural immersion and experimentation. Earlier this year, he released Bright Spots, a collaborative album with fellow Bristol bandit Sandy Finlayson, otherwise known as Seppa. That collection of tunes was the first full serving of Chalky’s considerable virtuosity, and the production value acted like an industrial adhesive for the bevy of tones featured on each track, thanks to Seppa’s engineering prowess.
Doubling down on lush instrumental dialogue and hardcore jazz motifs, Chalky takes the compositional direction entirely into his own hands in Second Beach. The arrangement of each track mirrors the overall flow of the album; strings, brass, keys, accordion, omnichord, and buttery vocals rest in the pocket of noire-flavored drums and voluptuous low-end. Opening the album with a dash of splendor and a high vibe, “Me and You” easily slides from a flashy, orchestral introduction into a sensual groove befitting a red-light mood. Entire scales are crossed and rehashed through a constant revolution with each texture gracefully overtaking the last. As the song comes to it's resounding back-end, perfunctory synthesis fills the upper frequency spectrum, while earthy sub-weight carries each phrase to it's natural cadence. Combining dextrous arpeggios with call-and-response chord progressions, “Distant Victory” is the natural resting point of the album, aptly squared away in the middle of the tracklist. With ease and tremendous attitude, major and minor phrasing is tossed back and forth like a firebrand tango between your brain's left and right hemispheres.
Capitalizing on what is clearly a fluency in harmony, Chalky fails to waste a good moment for unexpected, playful turnarounds on each refrain, gradually spinning his songs into sublime hip-hop rhythms. Bringing the album to a close amidst a mist of vivacious soundscapes, “Lore” channels an aqueous and asymmetrical aesthetic. Combining jazz licks, pitted percussion, and tone-bending synthesis, the wash of reverb and dialed-in delay create a stereo width that crosses sensory borders, becoming an especially physical experience.
For Chalky White, Second Beach is an ode to a musical heritage and familial upbringing within his hometown of Looe, Cornwall. It is the sound of youthful wanderlust tempered by an intuitive understanding of sonic effluence. Having already demonstrated the ability and willingness to work well with musicians and producers in various directions, it is extremely exciting to watch an artist blossom into their own aural identity in real time. With all the exceptional music coming from Bristol and elsewhere in the UK, do not make the mistake of letting Chalky sail under your radar.