Ben Chatwin, the experimental composer from Queensferry, Scotland, is back with ‘Heat & Entropy’.
The follow-up to last year’s ‘The Sleeper Awakes’ is described by the multi-instrumentalist as “an album of contrast, conflict and chaos, but also of complex relationships”.
Initially Chatwin intended the album to feature only string instruments. So the opening track, ‘Inflexion’, features what sounds like a music box but is in fact a dulctione – a 19th instrument featuring a keyboard that hits tuning forks with felt hammers. ‘The Kraken’ boasts a hammered dulcimer climax and on ‘Standing Waves’ he created a percussive sound by attaching pieces of metal, rubber, and tape to piano strings.
But the musician who previously recorded as Talvihorros ultimately decided to add electronics into the mix.
“The album then became about the tensions between the acoustic, or natural world, and the electronic world,” he explains. “For me this is where the excitement lies… It creates a unique world of contrasts and conflicting relationships.”
“We live in an age where technology is everywhere and it’s becoming so integrated into our lives that we now find ourselves on the cusp of life-changing developments in artificial intelligence and implantable technologies. That’s something I tried to reflect with this album.”
Chatwin found inspiration in the world around him, especially the Firth of Forth, spanned by the Forth Rail Bridge, where the river flows into the North Sea.
“The idea of people creating a structure or machine in an attempt to dominate a natural element certainly helped to emphasise the idea of contrast between acoustic instruments and electronics,” explains Chatwin who walked under the bridge every day while recording the album.
“When the tide was out I would walk miles towards Edinburgh along these beautiful secluded beaches that would emerge from the water. I found it fascinating how the landscape was so changeable and under influence from the tides, which of course is in a very strong relationship with our moon more than 200 000 miles away. The tracks ‘Gravitational Bodies’, ‘Standing Waves’ and ‘Surface Tension’ were all inspired by this.”
The track ‘Euclidean Plane’ also follows the album’s themes of “contradictions and opposing forces in a kind of symbiosis”, incorporating a bowed mandolin, three-stringed didley-bow, the sound of a £1 coin being rubbed on electric guitar strings, and Chatwin’s brother Jordan playing with unconventional tunings and chords on acoustic guitar and metallophone.
“The challenge was seeing how far I could push both the acoustic and electronic elements resulting in simultaneous beauty and chaos,” says Chatwin. “‘Euclidean Plane’ is one of the more harmonious tracks on the album.”
It’s accompanied by a video directed by Nat Urazmetova, who explains her vision as: “An unexplainable, visceral fascination with the mysterious otherworldliness of octopuses, the ethereal grace and the complexity of their behavior and temperament that magnetises me the most.
“This is something I tried to capture in the video for Ben’s ravishing track, ‘Euclidean Plane’: delicacy and unpredictability, the strong physicality but also a shimmering illusion, the pulsation which might have the extraterrestrial source.”
- ‘Heat & Entropy’ is available now.