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Review: Chalk – Conditions II

In walks the dark
Until I go
I’ve seen the light
That nobody knows

The Extended Play is a wonderful invention. Just enough music to ascertain whether you drop the notion of having a new favourite band or leave you gasping for more more MORE.

In the case of Chalk, I have to admit on first hearing, I wasn’t that fussed, and actually found the sheer intensity of it all, a little too much. But on several repeated listening sessions to the four track EP Conditions II, released on Nice Swan Recordings, my interest has certainly peaked.

Having only recently come across the Belfast trio, I had not even had a chance to stumble into their 2023 EP, Conditions to build any opinions off.  This follow up EP opens with a quasi industrial-electro-punk number. The Gate is, for me, an odd opener if you’re trying to listen to Chalk for the first time.  It’s full of high adrenaline, static and deep and pained vocals from vocalist Ross Cullen all of which has you on the fence trying to dance off a panic attack.

Endure that however, and suddenly you’re hit with Claw – like the sound of a sweaty and gloomy illegal rave, and you’ve got too close to the strobe light. It’s quite the infectious banger. Thunderous synth and menacing guitar lines. Dance music but make it punk.  Shut your eyes tightly and let this one throw you about a little. Cullen says the lyrics are about ‘falling in love inside of your nightmare’ – cute.

Kevlar is a trip, with a lack of percussion, swirling strings, reverb and vocals to match, it’s quite astonishing to listen to, and now suddenly you begin to figure out and appreciate a band that are pushing boundaries with style, sound and genre. 

The final track, Bliss is particularly pleasing for the indie-kid in me – probably the most conventional offering on the EP, but is a fantastic euphoric guitar track, with hard drums and gorgeous contributions from Constance Keane, AKA Fears on the counter vocals.

Despite that familiarity, it underwrites Chalk as a band that likes to take risks. Each offering on one short EP is completely different and that is very exciting to me.  With a growing live reputation (fresh from winning ‘Best Live Act’ at the Northern Ireland Music Prize 2023) It seems highly likely that Chalk will continue to smash their wrecking ball sounds across the UK and beyond.

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