“I wish somebody would sprinkle me all over with talcum powder”. Not the usual sampledelia, surely you’ll agree. But for Chubby Wolf, the late moniker of Dani Baquet-Long, one half of Ambient cult duo Celer, she has succor off to a tee; developmental stasis counterbalance, slightly tipped hour glass for your seconds and minutes to slip through. Chimes and piano are distributed like butter in turkey sandwiches: the drone being strong garnish inside the layers (guitar, synth) and slices (car wheels spinning to a halt on “Cantankerous Baby”; wolf cries on “Intrusively Coexisting” as bookend field recordings).
Boy I adore albums like Chubby Wolf’s. It’s so good I touched five plays in the first day. From the grounded nature of the elegant, peaceful “Birthday Suit” and “Short Dick”, spare-worded epilogues of humble human form, to the repetition-pleated leftovers: “Rattling Mandibles” / “Cruel Sausage Gentle Fingers”, there’s safe auditory wombs to participate in, and Dani has successfully managed chemistry with accessibility, synthetically washing Stars Of The Lid grandeur against rawer, paler shades, said to constitute her voice.
Now, as a huge fan of Grouper, you could strategise to ignore Dani’s vocal appropriation. Her tones are barely there, in a sense that you’ll have to look to make them out, and Liz Harris was criticised for this pre-”Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill”. Nonetheless to much for it, I wager she’s done a job that has values in quiet desire, and the internal consistency of harmonisation works wonders for the record’s integrity as a whole. To put it another way: survival (hearing, processing, deciding to keep, or move on) that’s an upper-lip-stiffening exercise grants little longevity in response to sultry pleasures of the not-so-crooning kind.
Battles of attention over distraction has been a recurrent ghostwriting for Ambient LPs, causing fracture to the genre’s many offshoots since 80s “Apollo” soundtrack tranquilised ambience as art. Where Chubby Wolf’s debut could have been a crucible to inadequacy, then, instead it’s decidedly solid and flexible at core, a “hang in there” clothes peg. The great design of Dani’s first full-length, assembled with help of husband Will Long, draws out the resonances as a helix, where upon re-listening you reach the same point but at a higher level. This is pragmatic for labels including
Digitalis, who pride themselves on releasing some of the finest, emotionally challenging, and at the same time, soothing material, and Dani Baquet-Long, as with Will, have only contributed to the trend. Essential!