Ben Chatwin – The Hum

Credit: Christi MacPherson

“There are so many sounds around us that are lower and higher than we can hear. I wanted to make it all audible.”

‘The Hum’, Ben Chatwin’s sixth studio album of electronic and experimental music under his own name, seeks to capture the concealed, the secret and not always audible sounds which are nevertheless always there. Amplified sounds, red-zone distortions, and the general noise of music-making, such as the hum of an instrument’s pickup or the assorted noise of the studio, are given a voice. Frequencies swirl above and around at all times, invisible to the naked eye, but also incapable of being recognised or detected by the human ear.

The Hum’s amplifications shine a torch upon the hidden and the unseen. Rattling and thrumming, these vibrations are scattered throughout the air, and this brings a shocking immediacy and a strong vibrancy to the music, revealing fighter-strong textures which were previously off-the-radar. The sounds have remained undetected for a long time, sticking to the shyness of shadows, lurking outside and past the audible periphery, but The Hum was designed to enhance and amplify them, giving them rhythm and melodic and harmonic force; it wants to emerge and engage the listener, and make one aware of their presence.

The Hum is intense, and its continuous nature only increases that aspect of the record, but grandiose, majestic pauses and wide-open soundscapes are spread throughout the album, too. The amplification adds a sharper, blade-like edge, but it isn’t the only reason for its intensity, as there’s only so much that volume alone can achieve. Something else is needed. As such, pounding drums and live-wire melodies are also brought in, and the record acts like a shock to the system. Studio hums and other radio bands are picked up, thriving in their new ecosystem, and a real feeling of progression and movement lingers in the air, mixing in with the invisible frequencies. From its rush-hour chaos to its slower and even graceful passages, The Hum is a record of explosive energy and patient restraint. Some of the segments have a balletic grace and a strange composure, even with its source material being so overdriven or wildly unpredictable.

Mixed live and then recorded to tape, The Hum is almost completely analogue. In fact, Chatwin deliberately avoided using the computer as a sound source. Rather than being cleaned up and disinfected with edits and other noise-cancelling tools, its distortions and scratched-up, powerful sounds are a vital part of the record’s voice, turning a regular sound into a growl, giving it teeth and equally-sharp claws to scratch against the music.

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