Talvihorros: Music in Four Movements

Occasionally one hears electronic producers' work being described in literally artistic terms, with reference made to washes and brushstrokes in characterizing the musical material under discussion. Certainly one of the most painterly recordings I've encountered is Ben Chatwin's latest Talvihorros recording Music in Four Movements. It's so painterly, in fact, that only a modest number of overt traces of Chatwin's primary instrument, the guitar, appears during the recording, with the clear exception the closing, fourth section, “…And Then They Walked Into the Sea,” where an acoustic guitar takes the lead role. On this forty-two-minute release, the London, UK-based producer uses guitars, organ, synthesizer, shortwave radio, chimes, music box, and field recordings (crunchy footsteps, flowing water) as sources but in such a way that their individuating sounds are often smudged into collective blocks of inscrutable character (that's especially the case during the gaseous third part, “Thoughts of Violence”). The results straddle multiple genres without one in particular standing out as primary but, for simplicity's sake, we'll call it atmospheric-experimental soundscaping.

Dulcimer-like strums, acoustic picking, electric guitar fuzz, and funereal rumbles help render the opening ‘movement,' “A Continual Echo of the Sound of Loss (Part I),” memorable, while the silken hum of an analog synthesizer warms the second part. A track title such as “Thoughts of Violence” suggests that Talvihorros's material might be kin to the ‘death ambient' style of Deaf Center and its ilk but in that regard Chatwin's track titles are a bit misleading. There's nary an abrasive or cranium-shattering sound to be heard; instead, the ghostly music exudes more a sense of peaceful resignation than violence per se. Think of it as the aural equivalent of a mysterious and enigmatic 19th-century landscape by a Symbolist painter like Arnold Böcklin or Caspar David Friedrich, for example.

We've been huge supporters of Chatwin's Talvihorros project since the very beginning and the latest recording does nothing but confirm our already held conviction that he's a special artist indeed. That an assured hand is at work is evident in how carefully calibrated the work is with respect to development. Each part—even the eighteen-minute third—unfolds with purpose and is as long as it needs to be in order to get its haunted point across. A superbly realized work, Music in Four Movements is available in a small edition of 200 so act fast if you're interested.

July 2010