Chantel Van T’s latest studio album ‘Nicalochan’, which she plans to release in 2020, is like no other body of work she has created. In Nicalochan, Chantel has carved out a spectacular album that announces the arrival of an independent artist with a fervent intention to both haunt and uplift the listener. Chantel Van T is an alternative folk artist based in Cape Town, South Africa. Under the name Van T, Chantel has released two bodies of work; a five track EP named ‘Tides’, and her debut album ‘We’re Still Running’, released in 2015. Themes of folk, country and blues weave through Tides and We’re Still Running and introduced Chantel’s unique and evocative voice, putting her on the local acoustic music map.
Now, enter Nicalochan… Nicalochan was recorded on tape by Danish producer Anders Christopherson (WSLS Records) in his self-built Berlin studio. Chantel recalls the experience as fever-like; as if in a dream she, Anders and friends created Nicalochan over two Berlin summers. During this time, Chantel moved through states of fever, confusion, anger, as well as awe at the process that unravelled before her. The project included inspired input from Jakob Høyer (Trentemøller and Ravonettes) on drums and arrangement, Davide Rossi (Coldplay and The Verve) on string arrangement, and Andrej Ugoljew on trombone. Together they found sounds and rhythms that helped tell the stories of Chantel’s songs and hold her possessed voice.
The album seeks to explore the artist’s inner world without artifice or any attempt to mask vulnerability. The lyrics speak of dreams and illusions, of disruptive forces in her childhood, of understanding love and of becoming a woman.
Nicalochan begins with the slow, low, roomy rolling guitar of Come to Me, and ends as it starts with Coming Home, a hauntingly beautiful song with infinite space and a similar rolling rhythm. These songs seemingly mirror one another. They are dramatic and captivating, with beautiful climaxes in chorus that leave you hanging on Chantel’s words. Together, with their simplicity, the space and depth they create and the stunningly slow melodies, they frame the album.
Choosing Lightly, Rather Comely and Lazerlight are light and folky, with deft touches of the trombone and xylophone. Petrichor, meaning the smell of rain on the ground in nature, mourns its own memory in this darker track of grungy cityscapes. You can waltz with a loved one to Christmas Song while Bittersweet Absolute is minimal and, ironically, sweet. Rumble and Crawl is a poignant country piece with whining strings that carry Chantel’s chilling delivery. Rest Your Gaze is a spacious folk song with a deep bass. And the title track, Nicalochan, is irresistible. It relives the fever-state to which Chantel alluded and retains the space that this album has mastered with its rolling rhythms and lilting melodic lines.
Nicalochan is an ode to an unknown force that visits Chantel. The album is spacious, gentle and powerful. It is a mature, honest creation that is neither overthought nor over-produced; born of seamless creativity, it imparts to the listener a sense of inspiration and wonder.
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