Recording information: Vennel Studios, Queensferry, Scotland (2015).
Photographer: Jonathan Birch.
Heat & Entropy is the second album Scottish musician Ben Chatwin has released under his own name, following several recordings under the moniker Talvihorros. As with his prior work, he combines electronic and acoustic instruments to create a suspenseful, atmospheric sound somewhere in the neighborhood of ambient, post-rock, modern classical, and soundtrack music. His eponymous work definitely seems to have a higher definition than his earlier material, which was already quite melodic and focused. While there's still the presence of carefully controlled distortion and rippling echo, there isn't any extraneous tape hiss, or anything else that indicates that this artist got his start by releasing limited CD-Rs and cassettes. He incorporates many intriguing, unconventional instruments into his compositions, including hammered dulcimer, dulcitone, bowed mandolin, diddley bow, and metallophone. The plucked strings and carefully struck instruments often bring to mind footsteps sneaking around in the dark or creepy, distant clocks ticking. The pieces usually swell up and reach a certain level of tension, but they never quite go for big, ecstatic crescendos, which is refreshing, as they express a lot without getting overdramatic. A few songs feature John Carpenter-esque synthesizers, and others have drifting electric guitars. Tracks like "Surface Tension" aren't too far from the "acoustic doom" of Deaf Center, but there are prettier moments such as the cosmic asteroid sweeps of the lighter yet still suspenseful "Euclidean Plane." Some of the tracks come close to having similar melodic themes, contributing to the album's soundtrack-like feel, but it never sounds like Chatwin is short of ideas or repeating himself. Heat & Entropy is a stunning, inspired album that achieves the sort of balance implied by its title. ~ Paul Simpson