Ben Chatwin: The Sleeper Awakes (Village Green)
Ben Chatwin previously released music under the alias Talvihorros, but for his latest he’s opted to go by his proper name for what feels like a personal and intimate album of instrumentals. Chatwin claims a keen interest in the marriage of traditional instruments and contemporary electronics and synthesis, and The Sleeper Awakes explores this thoroughly through a series of gorgeous pieces. The opener, “Sirius,” exudes the most perfect melancholy, recalling the most forlorn moments of Mogwai’s late 90s output, with a gorgeously lonely guitar in the fore. It’s such a perfect opener that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the rest. Most of the proceedings focus on elegant arrangements of melodic chimes and subtle electronics, with ambient layers of decaying guitar and pads. But that comes to a glorious climax with “Darwinism,” characterized most notably by a gorgeous, cloying string sweep that undulates throughout like a persistent tide.
Chatwin often indulges in some of the same repetition and pattern-weaving of post-rock heavyweights like Godspeed You Black Emperor or Mogwai, and it’s just as effective for him here. It’s something that could get old fast, but it doesn’t, simply by virtue of how gorgeous Chatwin’s arrangements are. Chatwin is skilled at crafting a mood that continually evolves and shifts focus across the album’s ten pieces, with some more tense moments such as the distorted edge of “Shadow Cutting” or the rolling crescendo of closing piece “Insomnia.” From start to finish, though, Chatwin’s talent for achingly beautiful arrangements shines through. It’s easily the best album of its kind I’ve heard in years — my favorite of the year so far.