Belfast based three-piece Chalk have had us wrapped around their fingers from the first moment we stumbled across the trios outrageously raucous and addictive sound back in early 2022. Now, just over a year since their first single release, Chalk grace the masses with their electronic post-punk debut EP Conditions. Set behind a background of dark weeping guitars, steering drums, and fronted by a vulnerably explosive vocal performance, Conditions will go down as one of my favourite releases of 2023.
The opening track ‘Asking’ evokes memories of listening to The Murder Capital and Gilla Band for the first time. Its repetitive rhythmic sound and pulsating beat turn into a storm of distorted energy that can’t help but make us think about how thrilling this song would be live. It’s beautifully intense and a fine introduction to the vast soundscape of Chalk.
‘Static’ continues to play with the brooding characteristics of before. The gross and gritty bass line of the song grasps us and doesn’t let go, along with the ever-changing dynamics. Front-man Ross Cullen delivers an impressive performance, switching between a style of isolated spoken word and harsh melody.
The highlight on the EP is undoubtedly ‘Them’. Eerie and raw, the electronic beat adds a contradictory element to the song, introducing us to Chalk’s influence of the local dance scene. The chorus is a real slap in the face as we’re met with guttural declaration of “they never looked at me like that” and a crashing array of wailing harmony that never fails to cover us in goosebumps.
The second single ‘Velodrome’ may be the most vigorous song on Chalk’s EP with its relentlessly ongoing atmospherics. Telling the story of a dying man’s final outcry, the song is infested with techno elements that help convey this image amongst the frenzied guitars and thrashing drumming.
Even title track and closer on the EP doesn’t disappoint. Like a breath of fresh air, it is an emotional affair with the luscious instrumentation on show. This contrasts with the sharp and quick word play that tells a tale of optimism despite all that’s unknown. Another escalation of lyrical thought wraps up the EP with a sincere ending of “you don’t know me like I do”, a powerful ending for a powerful EP.