Ben Chatwin begins his new album with an instrument you’d least expect—a dulcitone. Created in the late 19th century, the keyboard hits tuning forks with felt hammers, sounding like an ornate music box. It serves as the perfect lead in to Heat & Entropy, whose title refers to how introducing heat (energy) and entropy (chaos) into any given system can create life, exploring the blurring lines between man and machine.
The first Chatwin album to be recorded domestically, Heat & Entropy starts a new chapter for the Queensferry, Scotland-based musician. Under the name Talvihorros, Chatwin is known for his innovative combination of electronic experimentation and modern classical composition. However, last year’s The Sleeper Awakes took a left turn and exchanged vanguard minimalism for enhanced melodics. Heat & Entropy delves further into this world. The result is an ornate exploration into future possibilities.
On Heat & Entropy, Chatwin originally intended to use only strings, forcing him to explore lesser-known instruments. For “Standing Waves,” he attached pieces of metal, rubber and tape to the piano strings. “The Kraken” uses Terry Riley’s repetition as a starting point, but leads to distorted vocals and an intense, hammered dulcimer climax. “Euclidean Plane” incorporates a bowed mandolin and a three-stringed didley-bow, along with acoustic guitar and metallophone by Ben’s brother, Jordan Chatwin, who has had no formal training and learned guitar by ear, playing with unconventional tunings and chords.
Despite the unique sounds and textures Chatwin found among the strings, the lure of electronics proved too great. “The album then became about the tensions between the acoustic, or natural world, and the electronic world” he explains. “For me this is where the excitement lies…. It creates a unique world of contrasts and conflicting relationships.”
Chatwin calls Heat & Entropy “an album of contrast, conflict and chaos, but also of complex relationships.” Melody rises above the maelstrom in these compositions. It’s an album of experimentation, of delicately contrasting the organic with the artificial, and ultimately of great beauty and sophistication. Heat & Entropy marks the emergence of an incredibly exciting and visionary Scots composer.