Friday, June 10, 2011

Chas Smith - Santa Fe 10" (1982)

Although not a critical item on my wantlist, I was happy to cross this one off when I had the opportunity to buy it earlier this year. A somewhat hard-to-find name among experimentalists, Chas Smith is a Los Angeles-based artist whose ambient output I cherish. His album, An Hour out of Desert Center, is one I often return to. This 10", Santa Fe, was his first record.

Santa Fe differs from Smith's later work in two ways. His later work departs from the minimal, curiously retro, barebones ambient zones he composes on Santa Fe; those approaches, methods and themes are present his later work, just in a more sophisticated way. The second difference is the common instrumentation used on this record. Comparatively, anyway: while a pedal steel guitar and 12-string dobro are the only instruments used on this record, Smith's later work mostly involves elaborate, self-invented instruments, some with the most notably colorful names ("Guitarzilla").  His work is reminiscent of PartchYoung, and Stars of the Lid.

As with nearly everything else I write about, I am able to boil this entry down to wondering why this artist isn't more well-known. Interestingly, Smith has contributed to numerous film scores, including The Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty. Smith has also performed on recordings written by Harold Budd. That's an impressive pedigree.

This is a wonderful debut record from a genuinely talented composer. Recommended for fans of the Big Four, other ambient artists, and experimental music in general.

This was Cold Blue #E7. Cold Blue is a veteran California ambient and minimalism label that is still active. If you're still curious about Chas Smith or L.A. experimental music, do check out "L.A. Mantra", a 1983 compilation released by Trance Port that features examples of the Los Angeles underground at the time. Chas Smith's "October '68" is featured on that compilation.

Chas Smith - Santa Fe 10" MediaFire
Chas Smith - Website

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