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Named after a colour that supposedly cannot be seen when printed (but also a French liqueur discovered by monks some 900 years ago and rogue marketed by its makers as ‘the elixir of long life’), the four multi-instrumentalists that form Chartreuse find inspiration in the assorted works of Hans Zimmer and by long drives out of the city, daydreaming of future lazy studio sessions in the South of France. They all agree on assorted songs and records by Radiohead, Bon Iver, Ben Howard and Sharon Van Etten, and agree to disagree on many others.
Hailing from the Black Country, Chartreuse create richly textured, loose-limbed, country-kissed soul music. It oozes warmth, intimacy and melancholy. It’s a sound that roughly orbits the alt-country shaped textures of Lambchop, the unhurried grandeur of Nick Cave, and the life-affirming unity of The National. There’s something of the lounge-y, devil-may-care attitude of King Krule here too. In truth, it sounds unlike any of them, an unexpectedly furtive marrying of folk, soul, jazz, and RnB in its truest sense by a young band making their deliciously beguiling first steps.
Loosely fronted by the alternate vocals of Michael Wagstaff and Harriet Wilson, these are thoughts, feelings and curiosities initially scrawled out on paper scraps, and songs that act as their writers’ own personal therapy. Conceived and sculpted in their rehearsal cabin, less in homage to Justin Vernon than the only quiet room they could realistically find, it’s offered them a private space to seclude themselves away and pour over every detail of their recorded sound. And you can hear it.
Recorded in Tottenham with producer Luke Smith (Foals, Depeche Mode), the debut EP “Even Free Money Doesn’t Get Me Out Of Bed” is, sonically, a tone-setting collection that acts as a fine introduction to Chartreuse. Controlled either by Michael’s husked baritone or Harriet’s moreish delivery, the defining sound of the record is one that’s curiously both spacious but claustrophobic. Unhurried yet vital. It evokes a nocturnal mood begging for second listens, third listens, and is as well-suited to late nights as it is sound-tracking early mornings. It has character, and an understated, measured confidence. It’s precisely what you appreciate from a new artist. Chartreuse are, unquestionably, a real discovery.