Published Jul 05, 2018For as long as there has been electronic music, there have been musicians determined to produce work that's respected the way classical music is. Some go so far as to employ a proper orchestra, as Emika did last year on her symphonic debut Melanfonie. Others stick closer to their knitting, composing new music with electronics.
Both can be entertaining, so long as the work comes first. Instrumentation decisions are almost always best when they follow the compositions. Go the other way and you invariably end up with overwrought synth lines trying hard to sound like a string section.
Scotland's Ben Chatwin has produced an album that strikes a neat balance. Featuring cornet, tenor horn, cello, violin, viola and electronics, Staccato Signals is as substantive as a new classical work, and as innovative as an avant-garde electronic composition.
Every one of these ten pieces is beautifully written and performed. Just as importantly, each instrument adds to the end result. Nothing tries to sound like something else. The strings add gravitas, the horns contribute a sense of grandeur and the electronics — which are exceptional — infuse the entire production with an unflinching progressiveness.
The album's final track, "Black Castle," is a fine example. It opens with a darkly antagonistic blast of distorted synth, out of which emerges a colourful string section and the contrast is impressive. Just as memorable though is how the two complement one another, providing the album an intensely emotional finale. (Village Green)