This is my last review of the year and a very pleasant way to round off an outstanding year of electronic releases in all of the many genres and sub-genres of this constantly evolving category of music.
I cannot remember precisely now how our paths crossed, but I think it was a tipoff from a friend on the FeedbackLoop Label that put me in touch with Benjamin Dauer’s musical output. I was interested in artists exploring the performance crossover between electronic music and poetry and was pointed toward some draft versions of work on a project called Pollinators between Benjamin and his partner Michelle Seaman, who writes and performs her own poetry. This led me to discover a long back catalog of collaborative works which culminated this year in his debut release of the album Burning of Wine on the Distance Recordings Label.
Benjamin hales from Washington D.C. and he has been exploring music since he was 10 years old. His primary instrument is the electric bass, but it is clear that he is multi-talented instrumentally and he is as happy programming drum parts, playing keyboards/synths or processing sound with layers of effects and software as he is coaxing the deep foundations of music from his beloved bass.
The Burning of Wine album is something of a solo departure from his previous collaborations which have included the energetic acid-jazz fusion of Peking Turtle (Honey Girl Label), the gentle electro-acoustic ambient of Offsets with Dominic Dixon (Distance Recordings DIST 013) and most recently the inspired ambient-jazz poetry of The Dwindlers (FeedbackLoop Label FbL008 ) with his partner Michelle Seaman.
The new album opens in fine form with Anacrusis (pushing back) with its spacious and soaring reverbed guitar with occasional brassy distortions, bass pulses and horn like layers of sound all weaving together in an airy soundscape that feels like you are flying high above the landscape.
By contrast Hovering Light casts a darker shadow with its ominous bassy pulses and penetrating water drips that seem to be boring through a reverbed pavement in a dark street. Bright digital notes and chords pierce the gloom here and there, but overall the feel of this track is one of eeriness and foreboding.
Duotone Pulse shifts our aural location once more to a place of vibrating bass tones and bright sine notes with hints of woodwind in the mix. A lovely sparse piece this one.
Sense of Place is my favourite track on the album. It is a wonderfully understated piece conjuring up beautiful desolation in the hushed bassy drones with horn like overtones. Its sounds like a colossal ship moving sowly through thick fog and certainly portrays a sense of place very successfully.
Interlude is probably the most melancholic track on the album with a sense of sadness in the quiet electronic notes pushing through the lush reverb. This melancholia is soon broken though by the title track Burning of Wine which feels like it is unfolding into a spring-like blossoming of generative notes over a shimmering background digital haze.
Contoured Silhouettes shifts our sonic landscape into an alien world of echoing pulses over a bassy drone that is accompanied by an otherworldly chattering that fades and returns. The shifting drone is also accompanied by the static and hiss of lost radio signals as we descend deeper into the Saturnian clouds of this distinctly sci-fi piece.
Succession places us into a cavernously reverbed space of shifting metallic sounds and bassy echoing drones reminiscent of some mythological foundry of the gods at work.
Finally, the last track, Exploding Into Space (hole in the sky mix) seems aptly named as we are taken on a drifting journey through deep space with the comforting hum of the ships engines ever present as we glance out across vast sonic textures.
This is a highly successful solo debut showcasing a wealth of ambient soundscaping ideas at play and I thoroughly enjoyed the various sonic landscapes that we were encouraged to explore on this album. I look forward to hearing future works from Benjamin and I wholly recommend that you give this album a thorough listen.
Benjamin Dauer – Burning of Wine. Distance Recordings D018. Released October 2010. Free Download in MP3 or FLAC formats.
Burning of Wine – Distance Recordings: http://distancerecordings.virb.com/dist018
Benjamin Dauer: http://www.benjamindauer.net/index.php
Interview at Futuresequence: http://www.futuresequence.com/article/interview-benjamin-dauer/