Staccato Signals by Ben Chatwin

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Ben Chatwin
Staccato Signals (Village Green; LP/CD/DL)

Transmitting today is the latest from Scottish composer Ben Chatwin. Staccato Signals is his sixth full length release, and it packs a whole lot of swelling mood into a singular package. This is contemporary classical driven via electronics, soaring sky high on Silver Pit. The arrangements of several musicians bring together a sonic blend of instrumental harmony and storytelling. On Helix the tempo of clang is oddly reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s Construction Time Again – but any comparison ends there. What ties these tracks together are the overarching way in which the strings, bows and wind instruments are interchangeable with the synths, its bold and brash and bright.

Elsewhere on the album you will find a sweet blend of atmospheric tones balanced with understated percussion, all with a semi-glossy finish. This is most apparent on Fossils, a slyly composed track worthy of alternate mixes that either up the beat or distort it to the nth degree. Substrates is kin to some of the craggier electro-nu-folk of Godspeed You! Black Emperor or the more ‘out’ projects of Rob Mazurek. It’s elusive, torn ambient with rubbery strings and a swaying soft backdrop. This piece could easily be dropped into a diverse field of cinema, a transitional scene, a desert roadtrip or coastal drive, going out to sea – catch my drift?

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WOKE NOT STIRRED: Layers upon layers of harmonic tones bring to mind a thousand church organs playing in synergy over a parsed connection on the net, this surge repeats on and off throughout the record. Hound Point throws out a loner theme, keeping its head down low. It simply recesses into a shallow space, but does not forget to investigate all its myriad of cellular particles with its accompanying Asian strings, just as small implosions drive the background with searing overlays. It’s an intriguing mix. Next up is Bow Shock, with assorted horns by Mike Truscott. It’s rhythmic and mid-range with a bit of static, and increasing percussion that builds tension, and release. When the strings are deployed the whole thing gels quite nicely, ending somewhat abruptly, opening to the closer, Black Castle.

On the finale you can sense the weight of this journey, the tolling of the tale. It’s a murkier tone than previous, a wave goodbye. There is light within the shadier moments, which are breached by lovely cello (Pete Harvey) and other unhesitating strings (Liam Lynch, Kate Miguda, Asher Zaccardelli). It’s a breathless, dramatic ending, as if this conjured world has suddenly gotten sucked into a black hole in space, without a trace. Watch for the official release on July 6, I guarantee you will feel persuaded to give this several rotations.

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