Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
Missouri-based artist Whettman Chelmets stormed through 2019 with the release of his heartfelt and perennially engaging project Long Read Memories (we reviewed it here). The album was a tense and emotional exploration with the concept of memory at its core. Before that, he released Doesn’t Remember, the first of a trilogy in which he revisited recordings made years ago (a sort of Krapps Last Tape process one assumes).
He steps confidently into 2020 with a new project with physicals released via Misphonia Records entitled I Don’t Want to Let Go, but I Need to Let Go, effectively wrapping up the trilogy of releases.
The 3-track EP begins in silence. Slowly the atmosphere begins to fill with sounds. The gentle ebb and flow of an empty plane. Reverbed guitars peel off into the endless. Inhabiting a much more euphoric form than the project before, Whettman pushes warm sounds out into a cold, nuclear landscape. Each noise swallowed up by an invisible force, turning it into echoes. A large noise, like a dense cloud begins to enter the air. The ghostly guitar reaches through notes in a triumphant progression. Whispering fallout from what sounds like tape begins to float low across the yawning space. The dense cloud tosses and turns above the listener. Apart from the guitars that seem to exist in solitude from one another, there is no discernible other instrument. The artist puts us right into the centre of a tired state of mind. It almost feels as though we inhabit the destitute psyche of someone who’s ability to remember has been spent. Now there memories are ashy husks blowing away into nothingness as the wind claims them. As the first track reaches the midway point, there is no way back. No way of escaping as Whettman’s cloud of perfectly engineered ambient noise has claimed the listener entirely. Lost in a roaring soup of euphoria, neither present nor past. A haunting distorted sound performs an endless revolution, withstanding the torrent just long enough to hear each time it slowly turns. Emotive guitar sounds take flight above the noise, like a streaming light in the sky above us. We remain trapped in the dark cloud, but aware that there is something leading us onward. Through the wild jungle of memory and reminiscence to some sort of positive conclusion. The dissonant sounds gain prominence as the first track draws to a close with a hum of feedback disappearing into the aether.
The second third of the EP interjects with a shift in texture. Roughly recorded sound lays a gravelly bed, upon which echoing guitar licks ring out as they play a pained and melancholy tune. The sense of melody is much more apparent in this track. Two guitar lines weave themselves around each other as a distorted sound phases in and out of focus. Screeching guitar notes hover in from all sides as we begin to bare the brunt of a powerful wall of sound. The scene around us cracks and chips under the intense pressure Whettman’s music asserts. Eroding the smooth surfaces around us into mosaics as everything becomes overexposed to the noise that has become like a beating sun.
An anxiety-inducing string is accompanied by some sort of constant wind begins the last leg of our journey. Whettman Chelmet’s talent when creating soundscapes is never to be underestimated as the sheer austere nature of the artist’s work is often striking. Increasing in pace and diving to the top and bottom of the mix, a high-pitched, digitised yelp slices through the ambience. The tail-end of the sound is lost somewhere far behind us, sounding like stardust disappearing into the chasms of space. Each time the sound erupts, it begins to command the mix as the other noises keep their distance from it. A colder, more unforgiving wind begins to blow across a harsh and shrouded vista. A string sound erupts and begins to grow louder, striking the most defiant sound we’ve heard yet. The slicing high-pitched incisor fights back for control, both waver and falter. Mechanised whirring begins, integrating itself into the heady soup of noise. When the listener truly focuses on the sounds, and shuts all else out, the tendency of Whettman to build to a crescendo from seemingly formless noises is brilliant to behold. The constant revolving of the screeching noise that sidles by every so often is the only form of life left. The intense pressure exerted over this one EP, let alone the trilogy of releases, has wiped the face of the landscape we stand upon. The sound is too industrious to provide any hope of civilisation, great sheets of metal sound like trumpets from the underworld. More cold, robotic noises fill the stereo field. The conclusion is an elegant cataclysm. With these echoed sounds claiming a prominent position as the sounds fade out. A low, distorted bass sound beats, before gradually climbing to a high-pitched squeal. The last iota of the world is evaporated, and the last few mechanised breaths depart
Memories are non-existent in the physical world. Encased in white matter, they often find vessels through which to breathe some of their meaning. A photograph, a piece of writing, a souvenir from a holiday or an arbitrary object of sentimental value. But, we cannot see memories, we cannot touch them or interact with them.
Yet in this trilogy of releases, Whettman Chelmets almost does the impossible as reminiscences, memories, past thoughts and experiences fall screaming into reality. Through ambient soundscape creation, use of recorded sound and snippets of TV, film and radio the listener is immersed in a very real and interactive experience. The painstaking effort that Whettman has gone through to produce the trilogy is unfathomable. Trawling through decade-old recordings, revisiting traumas and tragedies, let alone creating the detailed and endlessly rewarding explorations themselves. This project, the last one and the one before that show him to be a truly talented individual with a vulnerability and methodology that draws the listener in and doesn’t let them go.
Download/purchase in full here: http://whettmanchelmets.bandcamp.com/album/i-dont-want-to-let-go-but-i-need-to-let-go
Purchase on cassette here: https://misophoniarecs.bandcamp.com/album/i-dont-want-to-let-go-but-i-need-to-let-go