Music Reviews

Artist: Ben Chatwin
Title: Staccato Signals
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Village Green Recordings
For his third album under his own name, Scotland-based Ben Chatwin wanted to ‘switch his brain off’ and play with analogue modular synthesizers, utilising their quirks to let melody and structure form naturally without too much premeditation. However, unsatisfied that he’d pushed himself hard enough, he then decided to add some ‘real’ perfomers into the mix- cornet and tenor horn, cello, and on some tracks, a four-piece string performance from the Pumpkinseeds.

And it’s clear right from the off that the result is something much more epic and grandiose than could have been achieved solo and just using synthesizers. The strings are crucial throughout, and particularly to the overture “Divers In The Water” and first full piece “Silver Pit”, setting out a stall that’s unabashedly cinematic and sets out to scale high. The analogue synths form the rumbling basses and gutpunching sounds in what sounds very much like a film prelude or trailer music.

Tracks like “Helix” drop the energy somewhat, setting off on steadier, more journeyman and atmospheric set-up of slow builds and soft drops that aren’t quite as punchy and which, at times, feel like they’re simply missing a lead line. Highlights include the brighter-sounding “Bow Shock” and the rougher-hewn textures of “Substrates”.

At times it sounds distinctly like Hybrid, without the beats, which in my view is certainly a compliment, though on tracks like “Fossils” and the slightly Vangelis-ish “Knots” there’s a slightly more synthwave flavour that peeks through.

It exudes quality in its production, and if it were coupled with that magic ingredient of memorable or heart-wrenching melody, it would be nothing short of amazing as a piece of cinematic electronica.

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