There’ a profound stillness to the second album from Melbourne musician and tabletop guitarist Tim Catlin. Predominantly utilizing treated guitars, both electric and acoustic, Catlin crafts these amazing drones that consist of a certain crisp textural quality, drones that seem incredibly thin, simple and stately, with a lot of carefully considered modulating activity. This is the polar opposite of your warm woolly feedback drones in which modulations and rhythms collide haphazardly around. The work here is filled with intent, almost scientifically so. Development comes slowly, almost imperceptibly, many of the pieces feel like you’re trapped in stasis, before you realize that something hidden low in the mix has gradually began to assert itself. The pieces are highly treated, whether by guitar effects or postproduction, with Catlin making no attempts to hide this fact, actually listing the instruments that he used at a basis for each piece. It’s not until the third piece Black Magnet however, where he first utilizes electric guitar that we receive a familiar sounding instrument with some cascading fluttering. Even here it’s quite sparse work, with no accompaniment, just developing patterns to uncover new resonant frequencies. The title track, another gentle piece with a strange looped sound that later seems to reveal itself as a drill on the strings, is interspersed with radio static and an incredibly dense warm drone that evolves into something that closely resembles throat singing. It’s these subtle carefully controlled evolutions that are the rewards of Radio Ghosts, Catlin’ ability to shift the listeners perception without them even realizing that it is occurring. It’s such a lulling experience that when he adopts approaches that appear noisier and less controlled, relying more on subtle feedback from a bowed cymbal on Everything must go, that the effect is infinitely more jarring. Perhaps he realizes this as the outro to said piece is the most relaxing drifting piece of ambient music on the album. Radio Ghosts is an experimental work where nothing feels out of place whilst its minimal approach to tools, exploring elements of the guitar, strings and wood might be alienating for some, it has a cumulative effect of leaving the listener sated with a feeling of purity, balance and stillness.
Bob Baker Fish
Postscript – After seeing this post Tim Catlin kindly informed me that he doesn’t use electronic processing, so every mention about post production should be scrapped. How he was able to achieve such an incredible sound utilising acoustic guitars (on the first two tracks) is beyond this writers comprehension. He suggested it was via overdubs and EQing, and did admit to using an e-bow. That said the absence of this kind of processing raises his achievements to a whole new level, and makes this writer vow to read the press release in the future.