Ben Chatwin - Heat & Entropy (Ba Da Bing Records)

Rewarding second release by Edinburgh composer away from his Talvihorros project

Released Jul 24th, 2016 via Ba Da Bing / By Norman Miller
Ben Chatwin - Heat & Entropy (Ba Da Bing Records) You may be more familiar with the work of Edinburgh-based composer Ben Chatwin under the name of his excellent alter ego Talvihorros. But last year's The Sleeper Awakes saw him take back his own name for an album that swapped vanguard minimalism for enhanced melodics.

Here he pulls the two strands together in a sonic weave that pushes the boundaries of stringed instruments meshed with thoughtful electronics.

While pleasingly distinctive, Chatwin's blend of electronic experimentation and modern classical composition at times nods to Boards Of Canada, Vangelis, early Mike Oldfield and 1970s Tangerine Dream – even dashes of post-rockers like Explosions In The Sky. All good. Though I'm not sure about the eye-popping octopus cover...

There are novel aural textures aplenty to enjoy here, such as the dulctione – a 19th century instrument where keys hit tuning forks with felt hammers, giving the sound of an ornate music box that, enriched with creamy bass, sets the tone on the short opening track Inflexions.

Chatwin explores novel instrumentation throughout. On The Kraken, for example – one of the real standouts – he attaches pieces of metal, rubber and tape to the piano strings for greater percussiveness, allied with Terry Riley-esque repetition, plus some hammered dulcimer to boot. The construction features dark electronic fade-and-rush with delicate motifs over the top, plus a warbly female vocal, deep growling electronic judders and post-rock wall-of-sound guitars. Fantastic.

For Standing Waves, Chatwin turns to bowed mandolin and rubbing coins on electric guitar strings – though the end result is one of the weakest tracks, like a lost Vangelis film soundtrack with trippy '80s inflections.

Euclidean Plane gives us something called a metallophone with various unconventional tunings and chords. It's a gorgeous track whose sweet plucked patterns sound like a soundtrack to a film of wildflowers growing in a meadow. It also invoked misty-eyed remembrance of Hergest Ridge, Mike Oldfield's all-but-forgotten pastoral follow-up to the grandeur of Tubular Bells.

Oscillations channels late '70s Tangerine Dream (plus early solo efforts of Edgar Froese) with slightly more warmth than those Teutonic masters, while Surface Tension offers slow eruptions of warped organ and dulcimer, popping like acoustic bubbles rising through an aural mudpool. It sounds like something Oriental created somewhere in a clash of the 16th and 22nd centuries. Corpseways is another Eastern-inflected offering, fusing slow acoustic strings with eerily see-sawing electronics.

All in all, an album where intriguing technical exploration allies with musical nous to repay each repeated listen.