"For..." is a 10-track travel story of four seasons. Whettman Chelmets narrates this journey using classical guitar, strings, bird sounds, allergic sniffles, coughs, shower curtains, park benches, children talking, dogs panting, and an array of other sounds. It balances between the inventive and the traditional. While post-rock scatters the landscape of this work’s terrain, expect to trek through regions dwelled by Steve Reich, Lindsey Buckingham, and makers of bossa nova.
"The ongoing drudgery of pandemic life has wreaked havoc on our collective sense of time—the winter, already a difficult and lonely time for many, seemed to drag indefinitely on, while March, the anniversary of our national lockdown, served as a harsh reminder that a year had already passed since our lives collectively changed. Whettman Chelmets makes the calendar his muse on For…, mapping the emotions of the past six months and hope for the future onto 10 different songs. But despite their parenthetical warnings—”Winter 1 (New Year’s Eve Does Not Foreshadow)”, “Spring 1 (Oblivious)”—there’s an abiding sense of optimism throughout the album. Even as the sound of rain cloaks the first track, an errant violin adds a suggestion of brightness. The album’s second half, meant to represent spring and summer, feature delicate, glassy guitar and rubbery, alien synths, representing the relative calm of the current climate and the blurry unknown of the near-future. But even absent that context, it’s a journey worth taking, if only because it supplants anxiety with a tentative suggestion of relief."
Arielle Gordon - Bandcamp, Best New Ambient, March, 2021
"Whettman Chelmets has recorded some very dark music in the past, but For… is a beacon of light, with one of the warmest endings we’ve heard all year. While other pandemic-related sets concentrate on a single aspect ~ fear, isolation, quarantine ~ this one travels through the year of our discontent, season by season, from memory to hope. Autumn receives two tracks, winter and spring three, and summer two, but the entire set is designed as a single piece.
The autumn pieces are suffused with field recordings and decorated with drone. They conjure a cloud of unknowing, a sense that things are moving forward, albeit very slowly: a reflection of the days in which it felt the pandemic, the political dispute, the emotional malaise would never end. In these days, it was hard to sense any sort of movement, especially forward. And yet, autumn, as it always does, turned inevitably to winter, for many the hardest of a lifetime. We dreaded this winter, as we knew it would be filled with death and despair. The snow and wind arrive early in “New Year’s Eve does not Foreshadow,” and there we are, back in the celebrations, all too early, that would lead to the greatest spike of the pandemic ~ and less than a week away from the riot that would roil a nation. A flock passes overhead, bracketing the piece: the same flock? Or a reminder of life’s cycles? By the second winter piece, the sound field has already begun to thaw, with pensive acoustic guitar.
The same acoustic sense continues straight through the last winter track into the first spring track, demonstrating that the calendar is a human construct; in nature, no clear dividing line marks the seasons. In the same way, progress is measured more in increments than in leaps, and is often non-linear: one step forward, two steps back. Still the earth turns on its axis and continues to revolve around the sun. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
As spring (“I Want Us All to Live”) turns gently into summer, the percussion gets un-stuck, the guitar strings move more rapidly, a hint of joy enters the fingers. Chelmets is recording in the past while projecting into the future, something we are all doing a bit of these days. We see hope on the horizon in new administrations and vaccines, and yearn to jump forward two seasons when alas, all we can manage is one. Even in the midst of the “Unrelenting,” how can we keep from singing?
The birds are back for real in “The Promise of Better Days.” Whettman is in the backyard, playing with his daughter and his dogs, Walter and Lenny. “It’s a nice day, about 79 degrees out. It’s a little muggy. But it’s a nice day. It’s a good day. Today is a good day.” This is the conclusion we all want to reach, no matter what the season. The piece was recorded on Father’s Day 2020, the first day of summer, while the album is released on the last day of winter 2021, psychological tipping points. Internally and externally, may we all reach a season of calm."
Richard Allen - A Closer Listen
Known for his unique sampling techniques and texture-rich soundscapes, Whettman Chelmets' most recent album For... is filled with a menagerie of moods and atmospheres that chronicle the strange and confusing year we've had in retrospect. At first glance, it almost seems to be a play on the classic piece Four Seasons by Vivaldi but in name only. This album is very uniquely a product of the musical philosophy that Chelmets consistently embraces in his works.
Released in late March, For... plays as one piece divided into four not-so-distinct parts. Being a trek through the seasons, we are treated to spring, summer, autumn, and winter; though not in that order. The piece begins in the fall with "Autumn 1 (A Remembrance on Normalcy)," a dark-tinged atmosphere filled with odd clicking and a foreboding atmosphere that is then lightened a bit by the next track. "Autumn 2 (A Gathering of Loved Ones)" gives us a slightly brighter atmosphere with an airy pad and the sounds of a calm day in the park, including birds and the rustling of leaves.
As the album moves us into winter, things begin dimly in "Winter 1 (New Year's Eve Does Not Foreshadow)" with a strange oscillating pad that is accompanied by the sounds of slowly moving water but then shift into dramatically more optimistic territory with the next track "Winter 2 (New Year's Day)." Here we are treated to the beautiful fretwork that Chelmets has to offer as he brings a jazz-influenced post-rock guitar into the mix that makes this track seem to stand out as something of a bright spot compared to the darker textures we experience throughout the rest of the album. Chelmets continues to treat us to his superb guitar work as we move through the last track of winter and into the first of spring with the former being a bit darker than the latter.
"Spring 1 (Oblivious)" sets the impression that this season will be a happier one with a bright acoustic guitar although the slightly off pad that plays alongside it suggests otherwise. The next two tracks of spring present us with a sound that is a bit sadder than the first, almost as if they seem to embody the optimism that things would get better only to be hit with the realization that everything is still very much in tumult. "Summer 1 (Unrelenting)" and "Summer 2 (The Promise of Better Days)" continue to solidify this theme as we are taking through a hectic and slightly uncomfortable moment in the first and given a moment of serenity and clarity with the second. As we drift through this final track, we are given a glimpse into a simple moment of a man playing with his dog as he matter of factly states that "It's a good day."
For... is truly a journey, and a familiar one at that. Throughout the past year, the world had been in flux and uncertaintly has persisted. In this album, Chelmets has succinctly and masterfully captured the feelings of anxiety mixed with cautious optimism that have gripped almost all of us as we wait for things to return to normal."
Lars Haur - On the Fringes of Sound
This week marks a grim anniversary. It was just about a year ago that we hunkered down for what many of us believed would be a brief period of isolation to benefit the greater public good. We imagined these extended spring breaks to be filled with Netflix and Trader Joe's snacks, and that we would eventually emerge into a sunny April and virus-free world. How naive we were. This memory feels like a dream, so distant and blurry, and we all know how the following months really unfolded.
Attempts to summarize this period of time feel futile, but sound artist Whettman Chelmets has released a sonic yearbook of sorts. Now, it should be made clear that summary was not necessarily Chelmets' intent (he makes no mention of this on his Bandcamp page or in press materials), but his new album For... was recorded in April-June 2020, and is grouped into seasonal movements, giving it a narrative arc characterized by melancholic-to-bright textures. So perhaps this is assumption, but the album feels like a yearlong retrospective.
Interestingly, For... begins with two fall tracks, though the album was recorded and released in spring months. These opening constructions are filled with reverb and distortion which lift when the first winter title creeps in. Winter 2 (New Year's Day) is perhaps the most accessible song here, and the clean guitar plucks give it a warm, inviting feel. Three spring tracks follow, one of which is qualified with the subtitle "The Worst in Recent Memory" which just HAS to be an allusion to these terrible days. And finally, two summer pieces close the album out with a bit of hope. Wind chimes and birdsong lead into the only words spoken on For... - a narrator (the artist himself?) casually describing his pair of dogs, the muggy but tolerable weather, and his assessment that "today is a good day."
Personally, this final minute of dialogue hit me in a rather emotional place, which was a bit of a surprise. Maybe it should have been expected after the year we've all had. In any case, the album flows together perfectly from opening tones to closing words, and perhaps like it was for me, it will be just what you need to hear. You can find Whettman Chelmets' For... through Drawing Room Records here on March 19th (mastered by experimental hero, Angel Marcloid), and preview a track below."
Nathan Yoder - Deepest Currents