When electronic artist Ben Chatwin plugged his Moog synthesiser into the mains at home one day, he was surprised to find the electrics of his home faintly singing. His house was built in the nineteenth century, and what he was listening to was the building’s natural hum. He boosted the volume, and in doing so, found the inspiration for his next release, The Hum, out on Village Green on November 6th
The Hum is Chatwin's sixth solo album of experimental electronic music under his own name and his eleventh in total. It amplifies the hidden frequencies that swirl invisibly around us in the air all the time but which most of us never hear, including the 50Hz hum of the power grid that producers will know all too well from the studio, but is almost undetectable to the human ear. "There are so many sounds around us that are lower and higher than we can hear," Ben says. "I wanted to make it all audible."
Taking inspiration from Mika Vainio's physical sound worlds and Jóhann Jóhannsson's immersive soundtracks, The Hum's emotive accumulations and caustic textures form dense stratas, with strings and analogue synths harnessed as melodic anchor points among electric storms of pulsating sound.
After discovering the drone of his home, he began extracting and amplifying as many ghost frequencies as he could from other sources to make tracks for the album. Interference includes aeroplane communications pulled from the sky; War of the Ants resurrects long lost echoes from previously erased recordings on blank tape. At one point, he found what sounded like human chorus in the signals – nobody else could hear it, so he also brought in singer Kirsten Norrie (MacGillivray) and buried her voice in the mix among the signals on Creep Strain and Snow Crash. Strings are arranged and performed by Ben's regular collaborator Pete Harvey (Modern Studies).
Ben avoided using the computer as a sound source, and most of The Hum is completely analogue – it was mixed live and mastered to tape. This record marks a technological and textural leap in his music, as an album that is both made with and is about the hidden sounds of tubes, tape, and the air between us all.
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