WHETTMAN CHELMETS “Long Read Memories” (Aescape Sounds)

This is a tough one – when reality encroaches upon us as listeners, we must gird our minds, preparing to be moved. We are no longer passive participants, ingesting entertainment to sate ourselves. We are in the thick of it, lending our empathy to the theme or the cause, or to the artist brave enough to be honest with us.

I am not bemoaning this situation, one where our involvement doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what weighs on the mind of Whettman Chelmets. The story: Whettman’s brother was convicted of murder at the age of seventeen in 1987, and he is serving a life sentence. “He has grown. … He has facilitated the healing and dialogue of victims of crime with offenders.” Life continues in prison for him. Life continues on the outside for Whettman and his family.

I wouldn’t trust anyone other than Whettman Chelmets with this kind of release. The Joplin, Missouri, musician is a master at maintaining his chosen mood, and he does so wonderfully here through treated guitar and electronics, etc. Field recordings heighten the narrative and add a sense of lived-in-ness to the situation and history. And while the feel here certainly isn’t of the light variety, it’s not remarkably dour either – it’s processual, as the recordings stretch from 2000 to 2019, and you can perceive the hours upon hours of deep thought and contemplation that Whettman’s wrestled through. Fine stuff.