Ben Chatwin ~ Heat & Entropy

CoverHeat & Entropy is a beast brought up from the ocean floor by a depth charge, unhappy to be disturbed.  This lumbering, tentacled creature can hold but a single thought in its mind at one time, and is hell-bent on revenge.  Who has disturbed my sleep? its mind bellows, echoing without voice in the minds of the sailors and military personnel who stare, stunned at the thickness of its skin, the power of its grip, the lack of emotion in its dead, gleaming eye.  Talvihorros, what hath thou wrought?

Recording under his own name, Ben Chatwin has continued to expand his musical horizons.  And It Was So tackled the creation story; Eaten Alive dealt with addiction; Heat and Entropy addresses a mythological beast.  Perhaps when the earth was formless and desolate, this creature was waiting at the bottom of the sludge.  Yes, one may view this as a concept album, even more so due to the presence of one non-lyric vocal track (“Kraken”!).  Few artists can pull this off, yet Chatwin does it again and again.  On his latest venture, he establishes a mood of mystery and allows the suspense to build, relying on a variety of organic and electronic instruments, the most important being a Carpenter-esque synth.  But this is no simple electronic album, as ambience, modern composition and post-rock spill over the deck, threatening to flood the hull.  By drawing upon such disparate genres, he creates a widescreen vision that engulfs the mind like an encroaching wave.

And yet, as foreboding as the set may be, it sounds almost liberating.  Now that the big concepts of creation and addiction have been addressed, it seems that Chatwin is having a bit of fun, diving into the realm of Ray Harryhausen.  Composition has much in common with stop-motion animation, requiring both patience and precision; both are present here.  Midway through “Oscillations”, one hears a sound that imitates a helicopter, suggesting the artist overhead, overseeing his work; or the military, seeking the Kraken.  Whatever interpretation one may have, the effect is the same: the sound (which also closes the piece) is perfectly placed.  While Chatwin may call this an album of “contrast, conflict and chaos”, there seems little of the latter here; the artist remains always in control.

But wait ~ could there be more?  Chatwin also refers to the album as one of “complex relationships”.  Could the Kraken be the looming figure of anger or suspicion, a primordial beast of emotion?  If so, perhaps these three albums are related after all.  The chaos before creation, the damage of addiction, the fearsome, tentacled beast, all the same: a threat to order, to sobriety, to love.  If so, Chatwin has also produced a beautiful byproduct, more authentic due to its genesis in blood and tears.  Heat & Entropy may not be the monster it seems, but instead the glimmer of its trail as it passes by, sparing those in its wake.  (Richard Allen)

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