Capacity (2023)

A collection of romantic droners inspired by midwestern thunderstorms.

TRACKS 1,2,5,7,8,9 Mastered by John Hruska
TRACKS 3,4,6 Mastered by James E. Armstrong (aka Slow Clinic)
Jacket Art and Design by Chance Dibben
Hook Echo Editions: M12

Released March 24, 2023

Album Bio:

Under the moniker SELVEDGE, Lawrence, Kansas-based producer Chance Dibben crafts jagged, ambient-oriented experimental music. It’s a sound that tends to be intriguingly harsh—the type of thing that might come across as a bit indulgent if Dibben wasn’t so genuinely stoked on his work. But although the project is intimidatingly solid, his goals remain pretty modest. For Dibben, SELVEDGE is all about using art to grapple with the world around him. Luckily, he’s succeeding: With each fresh release, it’s easy to sense SELVEDGE leveling up.

Dibben came into music later in life, and actually started his performing career as a comedian. He’s singularly pioneering the stand up-to-poetic-soundscape pipeline. There’s a lighthearted energy to SELVEDGE’s output that helps it remain grounded, even at its most challenging. “My training in music is nothing, but I think that everyone has an inherent grasp of music theory that they can work with and do something with,” Dibben says, when asked about how his goofy background ties into his serious musicianship. “It’s the same setup of telling a story or telling a joke. It’s setup, escalation, subversion, climax, and resolution. Just having a grasp of those parts really can take you far if you know how to use them.”

Dibben grew up listening to Midwest radio rock staples like Godsmack and Clutch, and the impact of those loud acts subtly shines through SELVDEGE’s more distorted cuts in oblique ways. But it wasn’t until Dibben’s freshman year of college that – like so many other teenagers – he started to branch out as a music fan, absorbing Radiohead, The Unicorns, Sufjan Stevens, and other of-the-moment acts. This expansion continued during a strange summer job working as a youth sports photographer, which involved long hours spent on baseball diamonds. He killed afternoons checking out music from artists like Windy & Carl and William Basinski. He fondly recalls listening to Spaceman 3 for the first time while a thunderstorm crashed in the distance. The time he spent exploring those ambient classics laid the framework for his adult tastes.

Dibben’s music production evolved out of a music-focused podcast he co-hosted with a fellow comedian. (“Everyone has a podcast at some point in their life,” he jokes.) He acted as the de facto producer, bringing in songs and cutting the audio. He started playing with the sound files, which inadvertently launched an interest in experimental composition techniques. After a few years, Dibben felt comfortable enough in his digital audio skills to actually start making music of his own. He bought some hardware and – after a brief stint chef’ing up more beat-focused tracks as DJ Dirty Dillons – SELVEDGE was born. Dibben settled on the latter moniker because he liked that it references both hearty denim and a meeting place between fields.

SELVEDGE doesn’t play shows often, and is predominately a recording project. Dibben mostly promotes himself online, and maintains a warm, lighthearted Twitter presence that cuts through the static in a corner of the Internet that can sometimes be a bit pretentious. But his elusive performances are made gripping by his ability to produce a lot of mesmerizing sounds without much gear. His setup employs just a Korg Minilogue, some pedals, and a simple 6×6 mixer. He also sometimes incorporates phone apps and a Korg Volca drum machine into his rig. He warps synthesized, step-sequenced loops into filtered atmospheres. The end result is vast and cathartic—Dibben is humble, but his sound is bold enough to speak for itself. “I gravitate towards the mix of beauty and noise—that’s the sweet spot for me,” he says. “My favorite ambient music is ambient music that has a little bit of bite; a little bit of gurgle; a little bit of noise. Something on the low end that serrates against the prettiness.”

SELVEDGE’s latest album, CAPACITY, is inspired by thunderstorms and the weird electricity that thrums in the air during the hotter months of the year. “In Kansas, most people have an affinity towards thunderstorms,” Dibben says. “We don’t run away. We crack a beer, sit on our porch, and watch them go by. I think the idea that there’s something above you is humbling, but at the same time – because of the electricity in the air – you’re still a part of it.” While the album is pretty gritty at times, Dibben thinks of it as his most romantic release to date. There’s a newfound softness that lingers at its core, beneath all the layers of feedback and warbled electronics. “MOVING WITH THE WINDOW” recalls Fennesz, with its pools of shoegaze-y distortion. Opener “TOWERING CLOUD” lives up to its title, thanks to grainy drones that slowly unfurl like tendrils of vapor. “SLEEPING FUR” evokes Stars Of The Lid and Benoît Pioulard, while the futuristic closer “ANOTHER ENDING” flirts with sepia-tinted, deconstructed techno. As a whole, CAPACITY calls to mind the heavens, without ever feeling too heavenly.

Dibben juggles a lot of thoughtful work in tandem with his music, but it only fuels what he does as SELVEDGE. He’s a dad with a day job, and does photography. He went to school for English, and – after a stint as an arts journalist – now writes poetry and short fiction. After even a short conversation with Dibben, it’s easy to tell that he’s a restless, creative spirit who thrives because of a borderline-compulsive need to put out art, which stems from his background in comedy writing and performance. SELVEDGE’s aural universe is contemplative and austere, but not unsettling. Taking in the world through Dibben’s sonic lens proves to be off-kilter in the most enjoyable way. [Ted Davis] 


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