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Review: Whettman Chelmets – I Don’t Want to Let Go, but I Need to Let Go

Words: F.J. Dominguez Pennock

The latest release by multi-genre exploring composer, Whettman Chelmets, continues the thematic strand from his excellent releases of 2019, Long Read Memories and Doesn’t Remember. “I Don’t Want to Let Go, but I Need to Let Go” closes out a thematic Triptych about the artist’s past experiences as seen through the prism of hindsight. Throughout this sonic three piece, the starting point of every composition comprises music made by Chelmets as far back as 1999, providing source material to create a dynamic of self plunder phonics-a process of taking one or more existing audio recordings and altering them in some way to make a new composition.

It is in this process of self plunderphonics that Chelmets raises intriguing philosophical questions about the nature of self, the process of coping and the journey to healing. In the time he composed his original pieces, he has experienced brotherhood through the constraints of a broken penal system and fatherhood. The songs created during the last 20 years, due to the nature of these experiences, no doubt informed the original creative process. But what happens when you go back and analyze, and in this case, communicate these experiences in hindsight? It is in this analysis that Whettman Chelmets music carries deep poignancy that is undeniably engrossing.

As the title suggests, “I Don’t Want to Let Go, but I Need to Let Go” is about the process of healing. In this case, the realization that one must learn to cope in order to heal. But as the album songs suggest, and as it is true in life, it is a process filled with struggle. It is in this struggle the music on the album find its voice sonically.

Aesthetically speaking, the music is ambient in nature-beatless and contemplative-as well as drone based, with guitars and synths running through a wide range of effects and processed into tones enveloped with echoes and reverb. Throughout the album, ominous codas envelop with gentle, drawn out melodies that barely register, not unlike the actual process of healing, whereby one can visualize harmony but cannot quite reach through the emotional turmoil the past still presents.

In other places throughout the collection, the codas become sharper, as if to signify the intensity of the struggle of letting go. The work is reminiscent of Robert Fripp’s soundscape albums such as “At The End Of Time” and “Love Cannot Bear” in its employment of guitar dynamics. I think he would in fact appreciate this work if by chance he’d ever heard it.

Despite the album’s title suggestion of a resolution, sonically, the album does not reach a conclusion. This in effect empowers Chelmets music even more as the process of healing does not equal forgetting, but coping and managing our experiences instead. And while the great Thai Buddist monk, Ajahn Chan, used to preach that attachment is the source of suffering, and we must, indeed, “let go”, the process of healing is a non linear process. There is no beginning, or middle, and no end is guaranteed. There is no forgetting, either. There is only coping and managing and in this way, “I Don’t Want to Let Go, but I Need to Let Go” is perfect by mirroring this edict through sound. Highly recommend you give it a listen.

Out now on Misophonia Records

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