After listening to several releases by Chessie (including the great Overnight), there's no way that I ever thought I would hear their name and Bossa Nova uttered anywhere near one another. Creating a minimal, hyper-textural wash of post-something music, the two seem worlds apart, yet somehow the two have found each other on this release. Suburban Shore is actually the collaborative efforts of Chessie (Stephen Gardner and Ben Bailes) and German singer Henning Fritzenwalder. The result doesn't work amazingly all the time, but when it does, it's stunning.
"Hier Wohnen Wir" (This Is Where We Live) opens the release with a refreshing and unique combination that sounds almost like the perfect marriage of the aforementioned sounds as filtered textures roll behind warm plucked guitars and a steady but unobtrusive rhythm section. Fritzenwalder sings in German (as he does on all the tracks) and his vocals have just the right amount of pull without being overstated. "Aufgeregt" (Agitated) steps things up another notch as guitars become even more hazy and horns burst forth on the choruses for a buoyant, yet slightly sinister effect.
The tracks that don't work quite as well are the ones that stray closer to a more typical Bossa Nova sound, and it's mainly due to them sounding so standard after the more unique pairings found on other tracks. "Fotografie" mixes in some very subtle textures behind plucked guitars and hollow percussion, but the track feels like fairly standard island fair while "Schneestrum" (Snowstorm) falls into a similar sort of rut with more typical instrumentation.
On the other side of things is the album standout of "Verbrechen" (Crime), a track that almost completely breaks from the whole Bossa Nova sound almost completely but could easily be one of the great tracks left off the Overnight release. After opening with warm acoustic guitars and some quiet radio static, Fritzenwalder enters as a simmering kickdrum and even more layers of shimmering textures build and unfold behind him. Flat out, it's a gorgeous track, flowing with sounds that would make M83 and Kevin Shields both jealous. Later in the album, "Mit Dir Mit Mir" (With Me With You) pulls almsot the same coup, perfectly layering real guitars over multiple washes of lovely textures. Overall, Suburban Shore works stunningly in places and gets by decently in others. If you're a fan of work by Chessie, you'll no doubt find things to love here, but fans of straight-up Bossa Nova might find themselves a bit mystified. A unique and interesting release with lots to enjoy.