Boomkat Product Review:
Cinematic neo-classical orchestrations meet heavily textured electronics in a way recalling Ben Frost and Jon Hopkins
"Ben Chatwin’s 'Staccato Signals' is the South Queensferry-based composer's second album with Village Green, following 2015's ‘The Sleeper Awakes’.
Ben initially set out to make a purely electronic record, using analogue and modular synthesisers, harnessing the unpredictability of hardware sequencers to write melodic lines rather than by hand with a keyboard. This was about giving up control to the machines – leaving them to their own devices, allowing chance and random elements to decide the direction of the music, ultimately making them more of a collaborator than a tool.
However, towards the end of its writing, not satisfied with the results, Ben was overcome with the feeling that he needed to push what he had created further into new territory, in order to invent entirely new sounds and textures. He decided to work with a string quartet, exploring innovative ways to fold, bury and combine both strings and brass into his industrial, noisy and chaotic electronic template. Again, this was about giving up control – working with other musicians, allowing them to improvise and arrange parts in order to find those special moments where something unexpected happens. The writing process became a search for those moments, the short, sharp flashes of inspiration – the staccato signals.
Throughout the album mournful strings are engulfed by harsh, all-encompassing synths, while disorienting climaxes of blazing electronics recall the deafening loudness of an inferno. Yet while the jagged, synthesized textures that needle the album together might call to mind such devastating imagery, the acoustic instruments that feature throughout the album continuously provide a more human counterbalance.
Following ‘The Sleeper Awakes’ (2015) and ‘Heat & Entropy’ (2016), ‘Staccato Signals’ is Ben’s third album under his own name. It’s a bolder and more ambitious record than anything he has written before, largely the result of relinquishing different levels of control over the musical process. It’s an album which smoulders with an almost aggressive darkness, yet one that is laced with melodic glimmers of light.”