“Mockingbird sounds like a shoebox full of old VHS tapes that have been taped over dozens and dozens of times with everything from old horror movies to unsent ransom notes.” The latest full-length from the Los Angeles based husband-wife duo Chestnut is one of those albums that refuses to leave you long after it ends. With all of the human voice, human experience and field recordings spread across its 10 tracks it seems near impossible that some of it won’t decide to stick around in your brain, haunting it like hotel room that has seen its share of life and death.
Ambitiously experimental, it is difficult to classify what it is that Chestnut creates. This assortment of musical, non-musical and field recording elements explores bleeding edges between harsh noise, uneasy ambient music, Hauntology and Burroughs style cut-up collage work – with ample amounts of outsider folk and some heavy shoegaze production. Mockingbird is an album that can be taken in as one large piece – a kind of Tarnation blend of documentary truth-telling and deep psychanalytical myth-making, or broken up into its distinct parts. Little audio worlds into themselves.
“Future Site Dr. Philips Performing Art Center” presents with heartbreaking amplifier-worship and dark ambient undertones that become overwhelmed with construction field recordings that feel completely part-and-parcel of the sound world while “John Keel on Late Night TV” is a dark-hued acoustic strummer over cut-up static and TV samples that uncover a Jandek / Simon Joyner spiritual connection that I’ve never thought of before this track. “Choker” is a near perfect Dream Pop song that sounds like it was written by John Darnielle and Wolf Eyes.
Mockingbird is what Chestnut is calling their “most accessible album”. Peeking through the static, samples are moments of sheer pop brilliance. A close analog would be Xiu Xiu in their graceful offerings of beauty swimming in so much ugly and honest humanity. Of this accessibility, Chestnut write, “the idea of being alienating in 2020 feels so pedestrian. We live with alienation everyday. With this record I was hoping to achieve something communal.”