Chantal Michelle -
Night Blindness
Album Review

Published: January 23rd 2022

Artwork: Albert Mestres, and Dev Blaskovich

Quiet Time

Limited edition Cassettes are available on

Chantal Michelle has given us an album borne from trauma. Conceived after she suffered a series of near-death experiences, resulting in Michelle operating within an ambiguous, soft-focus bardo “somewhat akin to lucid dreaming[1],” Night Blindness is the inspired haul of her bedridden navigation. 

Often recording far from her NYC homebase, location appears to be integral to Michelle’s practice: her previous effort, AUNIS, a collaboration with musician Brian Allen Simon (as Pétra), was mostly done in Nisyros—a small Greek island with an active, walk-in volcanic crater[2]—the output being “a site-specific reaction to all locales[3],” but whereas AUNIS was defined by unrelenting sonic eclecticism, Night Blindness is restrained, more minor-key.

This LP, recorded in Mexico in 2020 and released via Quiet Times Tapes, proves the approach isn’t just topographic novelty; with Simon making a welcome appearance on saxophone and bass clarinet, and Sonja Mauro on piano, Michelle and Co. engineer a bone-charred overlay onto the ecoregion’s musical vernacular—soughs, rustles, susurrus, chirps, pitter-patter buoyed up by electronics. A tone is effectively set by opener “Intro (Piano14419)”: aurally something ominous and forever in the distance, a Basinski tape spool falling apart in real time. Pieces like “Rupture” and “Assemblage of Intensities” amount to a succession of biospheric zibaldone as if off an attenuated vinyl dish. “Pure” is subaqueous piano and harsh noise; nature falls upon the track as if queued behind a sluice. 

The only noticeable lowlight is the title track: any sense of feeling the piece hopes of conjuring up is kneecapped by the sharp kitsch of the synths; as it goes on and on and speeds up, you wait for the piece to leave—but following that, starting with “Inferno”, Simon’s reed improv assumes a more prominent role, and the LP is elevated by the rattling in-and-out of woodwinds on “Cold Streamers of Dust” and “(Outro) Dandelions”. (Side note: in addition to working on Night Blindness, Simon also released The Side I Never See, a 22-minute, ‘Ambient-Punk/Abstract-Jazz/Disaffected-Classical’ miniature in collaboration with Scottish musician Hugh Small well worth listening to[4].)

The way water courses throughout the album, Night Blindness is nature deftly curated at the discretion of Michelle. It’s music for long sit-downs and woolgathering rambles, the listener given over completely to the neotropical thrum.