The battle between electronic and organic has always been central to the Ben Chatwin’s compositions. While the emotional heft in his works is left to strings and brass that conjure the modern miracles brought to life by the likes of Max Richter or the late Johann Johannsson, Chatwin lets his electrics chew on the results in a way that brings to mind Ian William Craig, or Craig’s muse William Basinski. Over the course of his solo albums Chatwin is steadily evolving this approach to leaning on wind vs. wires. On 2015’s The Sleeper Awakes his infection of electronics was pervasive drawing on shoegaze in its obsession with peaks and swells. For 2016’s Heat & Entropy, Chatwin cleared out the noise floor a bit and put the focus cleanly on strings. Though, his vision of strings was still laden with soot, putting him in league with the dust bowl crumble of Evan Caminiti as often as he did those heavy hitting neo-classical types I mentioned.
On Fossils, Chatwin is using his proclivity for noise in the most effective means yet. The pieces have electronics woven throughout them, tumbling on pulse gripping beats sandblasted with static and teeming with swelling synths that aspire to the size of his orchestral ensembles. He’s roping in dub’s cavernous clatter to forests of cellos that block out hopes with a cloud of desperation and anguish. Each side of his approach is pulling its weight hard enough to make this feel like two equally adept genre studies melted together. Its either the best neo-classical album heard this year or the best e. Where his previous effort worked its way through Thrill Jockey’s post-rock to broaden the scope of classical, here Chatwin twisting his vision of modern composition through the prism of prime period Kranky output – positing the film scores that would’ve existed had Keith Fullerton Whitman and Stars of the Lid found their pockets stuffed with enough cash to outfit a full string section with their odes to sonic float and aural decay.
The record is harrowing to say the least, barely letting any room for relief flood the speakers. He grips the listener with writing that’s packed full of mournful resolve that often gives way to crushing walls of noise that feel about read to render the listener dust by the time he lets off the pedal. Not for the faint of heart, but certainly for those looking to run the emotional dial ragged for forty minutes.
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