Ben Chatwin swaps dystopian fiction for post-rock on his latest album

Ben Chatwin poses next to the inside of a piano
(Image: © Graeme Cunningham)

“It’s not about the notes, it’s about the sounds,” says Ben Chatwin, and this is as close to a mission statement as the composer and producer gets when describing his music.

As Talvihorros, Chatwin has already released a series of instrumental albums full of dark electronica and manipulated guitars, but last year, he decided to “free myself of any predetermined ideas of what I should be doing”, and put out his first album, The Sleeper Awakes, under his own name. It’s based around HG Wells’ dystopian novel of the same title, and it saw him move into melodic post-rock territory, similar to Mogwai and Piano Magic.

The ideas in the book fitted well with what Chatwin wanted to achieve sonically: a synthesis of ancient and modern. “It’s about a future that’s now in the past,” he explains. “I wanted to use a combination of very old instruments and very modern production.”

I like to make acoustic instruments sound very processed, and electronic sounds that are human and warm.

He was particularly inspired by the dulcitone, a 19th-century precursor of the Fender Rhodes, where the keyboard hits tuning forks with felt hammers. “I like to make acoustic instruments sound very processed, and electronic sounds that are human and warm. You’re just not sure what you’re listening to.”

His new album Heat & Entropy takes this approach further, a collage of atmospheric drones and fractal melodies. It’s “more complex and textual” than his previous work, seeing him move in a similar direction to experimental artists such as Ben Frost and Roly Porter. But despite the sculptural, multilayered nature of his music, he cites minimalism as a key influence. “It’s often just one or two notes, but what can you do with those notes? I’m fascinated by the huge emotional impact they can have. I’m trying to achieve that focus of ideas in my music.”

Chatwin also takes inspiration from the landscape. Two years ago, he moved from London to Queensferry in Scotland: “It’s a sleepy town by the sea, but it’s also got the Forth Bridge, this huge, machine-like structure coming out of the landscape, which creates a strange tension. It’s such a beautiful, natural area where I live, but as humans, we’re still trying to dominate it and make it our own.”

The vast forces of the universe and man’s fragile place in it are central to Heat & Entropy. “The sea became another element in my thought processes, the way it’s constantly changing according to the moon. It’s these complex relationships that we take for granted, all these small factors that are easy to forget, but contribute to us being here as the main species on the planet.”

As a studio-based electronic musician, Chatwin admits that the limitless possibilities available to him can sometimes be a little daunting, but “the last two albums just started with an instrument, just hitting them and coming up with melodies. I often switch on my computer and sequencer and sit there staring at them until I remember, ‘That’s not how you make music.’ You have to go to an instrument and start making some sounds.”

PROG FILE

line-up

Ben Chatwin (acoustic and electronic sounds)

sounds like

The soundtrack to some major cosmic event; melody vs chaos

current release

Heat & Entropy is available now on Badabing Records

website

www.ben-chatwin.com