Staccato Signals by Ben Chatwin

Release date: July 6, 2018
Label: Village Green Recordings

It is very rare to find an album title that more perfectly sums up the sound within than that of Staccato Signals. It’s a title that perfectly encapsulates the relaxed, ambient but jagged and jumpy nature of the sound, as well as the “man versus machine” theme that runs through the entire album.

Ben Chatwin may be a new name to many. Currently on his third album, the Scot has crafted a unique sound; soothing, but at the same time menacing: uplifting, but at the same time bleak and cold. A bedrock of glitchy electronica is cleverly supported by chilled acoustic guitars and swelling strings that carry through a layer of emotion. It makes for a ponderous, meandering sound that absolutely refuses to be rushed.

Despite the lack of pace, there is a great subtlety to the sound. Violins in particular add a layer of delicacy, while echoing, repetitive rhythms (signals, if you will) create a wistful feeling of monumental loss. The menacing ‘Silver Pit’, for example, creates a creeping sense of dread, before the strings bring a sparkling optimism. At other times Chatwin reverses the process, with ‘Knots’ sounding almost like it could come from a quirky video game, before giving way to more atmospheric anxiety. The tension builds throughout the album, always threatening but at no point does it ever truly break. Some may find this frustrating – there are few crescendos on this album and only ‘Hound Point’ ever comes close to picking up the pace, with its slight industrial influences. It’s a measured sound, a masterclass in control.

Staccato Signals could well prove to be Chatwin’s breakout album. Where most artists would use any excuse to rock out, he seems to revel in the build-up, the tension before the explosion. Staccato Signals manages to be relaxing, meditative and peaceful while at the same time vaguely unsettling. A cavernous cry for humanity, Ben Chatwin’s third album is a confident, assured slab of sorrow oozing in icy atmosphere.

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