André Duchesne, as he tends to do, manages to accomplish something resembling complete expressive purity on Ch’val. It feels like a deeply personal project, with Duchesne himself being responsible for every instrument, click, clack, whisper, wander and runaway brushstroke the listener can perceive. Guitar notes in the left channel dissolve in the mix, as if muttering something under their breath, or a notion abruptly turning into an afterthought. Freewheelin’ ride cymbal grooves in the right channel are aborted on a snare hit, the upbeat a helium balloon with a combusting string. There is a charming baldness to the all-around sonic stew, with a notable scarcity of studio effects imposed on Duchesne’s musicking, which makes every utterance completely unmistakable.
This stripped-back approach makes this virtual rock band (as Duchesne puts it) reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time ensemble, particularly with the polyphony created by the sharp guitar and drum tones. So many sounds are in the forefront, and yet there is a beautifully intricate organization to the soundscape. The presence of transparency and humility Duchesne creates is quite sobering, allowing the entire process to be laid bare in the product. Perhaps most astonishingly, this act of constantly layering numerous takes on top of each other never compromises the music’s sense of spontaneity, and certainly doesn’t take away from the listener’s feeling of adventure on this glorious odyssey.