(Strategic Tape Reserve)
Whettman Chelmets’ Doesn’t Remember… is an album more than 15 years in the making. A re-visitation of sounds that Joplin, Missouri’s Matt Clements recorded to 4-track between the late nineties and early 2000s, the meta-layers and paradoxes that make up its existence are astounding. Conceptually themed around the idea how memories fade and are warped and filtered due to the natural progression of time, the music found on Doesn’t Remember… doesn’t represent this phenomenon: it is this phenomenon.
This is Chelmets’ first foray into the world of vaporwave and he manages to both master the genre right out of the gate while also breaking nearly every rule by not breaking the rules. Confused? Yeah, so are we and so is Chelmets. Or is he?
Vaporwave is a post-modern genre largely and often built upon the questionable sampling and slight alteration of eighties and nineties pop/mood music, fueled by anachronistic nostalgia. The component of re-imagining the past is alive and well on Doesn’t Remember…, but Chemlets is instead sampling himself using vaporwave techniques, and his back catalog hardly consists of lounge music or city pop, but rather ambient, noise, and shoegaze. As such, aside from the symbolic applications of filtering techniques to craft textures that coat these pieces to sound and feel like hazy, in-graspable memories, Doesn’t Remember… has more in common with the work of Tim Hecker than it does with what springs to mind when one usually thinks of vaporwave. If you want to ignore pure sound and just focus on the theme of how the personal evaluation of the same events and feelings can change over time, you could call it Chelmets’ Twin Fantasy (Face to Face).
Unlike Twin Fantasy, Doesn’t Remember… is nearly entirely instrumental aside from a couple spoken samples. As such, it shoulders the burden of storytelling through pure sound, and boy does it have a lot to say. When speaking of Chelmets’ last four releases, the blinding nugget of hope Alas... The Sun is Shining, and You Are Still Alive and the weary yet euphoric Giant Eyes and Infant Steps are yang: the crushing industrial bitter rally cry Annihilate Your Masters and Doesn’t Remember… are yin. While the feelings of Annihilate Your Masters are largely focused outward, Doesn’t Remember… is inward. Bleak, self-defeating titles such as “Drowned and Faded” and “What a Failure of a Year” are indicative of Chelmets’ dark struggle with his own mind and have the sounds to match. There’s a moment during the late major shift of the ambient noise of “Drowned and Faded” where the track seems to, for the lack of my own words, empty. It’s as if Chelmets’ cognition has been subtly but suddenly snuffed out for his body to meekly slump through life. It’s utterly bizarre. “What a Failure of a Year” meanwhile is eerie and depressive, full of quiet terror and madness. Modulated vocals represent a literal ‘inner demon’ engaging in negative self-talk backed by saturated electronics that border on horror synth. When the track becomes truly busy in its second half, the anxiety is palpable.
Chelmets has been at this music thing for a while now, but it feels as though he’s really hit his stride in the past twelve months. Doesn’t Remember… is like a man fishing in murky waters to reel in his past traumas. His best yet.
Whettman Chelmets Is Getting Better.
Favorite tracks: “Recollections Suite”, “Drowned and Faded”, “What a Failure of a Year”
Music video for “Recollections Suite”: