Stranger by Starlight is the result of a collaboration between Stray Ghost (Anthony Saggers) and Oxbow frontman Eugene Robinson. An odd mix on the surface; Stray Ghost is more used to making electronic soundscapes and Oxbow are the jazz-side of noise rock. Chalk White Nights, unfortunately, is not just weird behind the scenes. It's a thoroughly bizarre album which starts off in the mind of a haunting progressive rock delight, and quickly becomes some sort of narrated, eery audiobook.

It would be incredibly naive to take this as an album to appreciate purely on its musical merit, because that's really not what it's about. However, let me just say that the arrangements here are incredible. If there wasn't any vocals at all, this would be an album I would be recommending thoroughly to everyone, as it's incredibly beautiful. Chalk White Nights layers delicate percussion alongside quite jarring synths, and the result is something pretty amazing. It's almost what you'd expect to hear at the end of a horror film as the credits roll over a mysterious ending.

Although the vocals are the one part which would put off any prospective listeners, it's actually hard to imagine Chalk White Nights delivered any other way. Only briefly do the vocals completely take over the ambience, and when they do, like in 'The Last Days Of The Sinner', it's done so well against the rising piano, it all starts to make sense. Robinson gets so into the vocal delivery (in a way we rarely see from him) that you can't help but feel this album deserves to be, not just listened to, but genuinely thought about. A lot of albums demand that from you with very little in return, but here it's consistently exciting.

The opener, 'The Night Of No Sleep', highlights from the start a little bit of the negative side of what's on offer here, which does need to come out here. The sound comes off as so overwhelmingly claustrophobic, you urge it to break out and hit you in the face, and it just doesn't. Album closer, 'A Black Cat', suffers the same fate. A clever bout of layered vocals does nothing to soften the anticipation of the end of the album. 'An Organist', however, completely nails what's good and exciting about Chalk White Nights. Dirty, cold, and unsettling, it captures a moment where Saggers and Robinson completely pull off their vision. As a mid point to the album, it clarifies what they've done here, and saves the album from entering into an unenthused tailspin.

This is a hard album to recommend as it demands a particular type of listener. I would say it's worth trying, just to see what the guys at Stranger by Starlight are doing. I don't for one minute reckon this is it from them, even given their other commitments. I don't see Chalk White Nights breaking new ground and expanding their listenership, but this is one of the most intriguing albums I've listened to in a long time, and one that's going to personally haunt me for a long, long while.