Drone Signals by Ben Chatwin

Release date: September 14, 2018
Label: Village Green Recordings

It’s been only a few short months since the Ben Chatwin gave the world Staccato Signals, an album of icy electronic compositions layered with a sense of humanity. Now, he is back with Drone Signals, a deconstruction of sorts of the former record. As the name suggests, these new recordings have a more static tone about them; if Staccato Signals played on the sense of “man versus machine,” Drone Signals shows a world in which the machines won. There is a lack of humanity about these new arrangements, which is of course the idea behind the album but it leaves the resulting tracks lacking, and feeling less dynamic than they did previously. Layers have been stripped away and it makes this album feel a little incomplete.

That’s not to say this new recording is without merit however. Drone Signals still shimmers with the same sense of optimistic menace as its predecessor, but there’s a more minimalist sound here. The droning echoes counterpoint well with the soothing string sections, creating a sound that feels like it comes from a film score.

The reworked tracks become almost unrecognisable with the initially stirring ‘Black Castle’ becoming louder, darker and much distorted on ‘Burning Witches’;  The chirpiest, bounciest track on Staccato…, ‘Knots’ becomes the mournful dirge of ‘Unravel’. The album as a whole feels much gloomier, with only the sparkly ‘Dendrites’ and the stirring ‘Lost at Sea’ offering much in the way of levity.

On Drone Signals Ben Chatwin cements his ability to create a sense of dreamy tension. Through the electronic ambience of ‘Nordsjoen’, the discordant ‘Coruscate’ and the deeply menacing ‘Tail’ Chatwin shows off his ability to set a mood, even incorporating a piano on the twinkling ‘Bone’ to great effect.

The minimalist tone and reliance on electronic static may make the album feel a bit less vibrant than Staccato Signals, but the mournful string sections still remain, and the sense of icy tension still flows just as steadily throughout Drone Signals and makes the album a worthy addition to the Scot’s burgeoning arsenal.

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