June 12, 2009

Chow Chow Music
Doomsday Scenarios

Recorded by Peter Hanlon | Mastered by Michael Quinn at the Moontower Recording Studio

When an artist titles his album’s closing song “And Finally,” there’s a relieving sense that, for someone so bent on using strange electronic sounds, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Chow Chow Music (the project of Astoria’s Peter Hanlon) seems determined to unsettle its audience on the oddly entertaining album Doomsday Scenarios.


“Cookies” introduces the album with an instrumental song-fragment featuring a lilting ukulele, bells and hand-held percussion. The uke returns on the precious and astutely titled “Fluteuke” with an out-of-tune riff under a duo of flutes playing an ostinato reminiscent of a fifth grade recital. Combine that with the overdriven, low-frequency synthesizer and a drum track lifted from some power ballad and you get the essence of Hanlon’s idea of experimentation: grab whatever instrument is within reach, slam the tones against each other, and see what happens. The combination of such disparate timbres often yields interesting results.


One of the few tracks with lyrics, “Springtime” takes a Mold Peaches approach and pushes its cuteness to the extreme. “Springtime flowers and the pretty birdies chirp in time with my hurdy

gurdy/I’m dripping honey and there’s bunnies all around,” they sing in a chorus that recalls the kind of children’s song that actually frightens kids and parents, alike. A hurdy gurdy, incidentally, is a mechanical fiddle-like instrument with a drone that functions much like that of a bagpipe. Something new every day. Doomsday Scenarios has a dark humor that applies an “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” attitude to the apocalypse (“Make your own clothes and learn to farm/Cities were great, but rural life’s got its charms”). The mostly instrumental tunes on this record certainly have their charms, too; and much of Chow Chow Music’s material works, not only because of the quirky experimentation, but also because of Hanlon’s twisted sense of humor. (self-released)


-Ryan Faughnder


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