Review: Benjamin Dauer – The Pace of Which
Twice Removed Records – Time: About 39 Minutes – Limited Edition CDr (50 copies)
Tracks: 1) Anchors and Roots; 2) Either By Storm Or Low Frequency; 3) With Closed Mouth; 4) Melting Tines; 5) Waiting for the Rain; 6) From Ebb To Flow
Coming from Twice Removed Records on January 1, 2013 (a small label in Perth, Australia that releases short-run limited editions) is the latest (third) solo album from Benjamin Dauer. I have great admiration for the various interests that BD pursues. He has diverse accomplishments, from his design and digital media day-job at NPR (National Public Radio) in Washington, DC to raising awareness and environmental activism projects like Save The Pollinators.
I also appreciate BD’s musical pursuits as both a multi-instrumentalist solo artist and collaborator (with other musicians near and far), including his active participation with the Disquiet Junto (an ongoing music-making project where restrictions are used as a catalyst for inspiration). Recently, I’ve been following with great interest the sound-sketch development (posted on SoundCloud) for a forthcoming album by The Dwindlers (his ongoing collaboration with poet Michelle Seaman).
From what I have heard of Benjamin’s previous solo work, it tends to be less rhythmic, a bit darker and more saturated than his (often Jazz-rooted) work with The Dwindlers. There is an enmeshed yet subtle grittiness recalling earlier analog electronic and instrumental works (like the 1970 soundtrack to Frederic Rossif’s documentary L’Apocalypse des animaux by Evangelos Papathanassiou), while continuing to explore new aural horizons and narratives. BD has an interesting quote at his website, which I think reveals that his solo work is less about an arrival at a particular sound, but more about the journey:
“As a musician & composer, I explore the boundaries of modern music through experimentation and play.”
In The Pace of Which, BD seems to be investigating different methods of creating musical atmospheres by blurring distinctions between musical genres (such as ambient, drone or others). Each track takes a different approach, but there are some common elements in varied intensities. Some of the pieces focus more on background with minimal foreground, whereas others the foreground elements are more pronounced, as well as the in between.
The background is predominant in Anchors and Roots. The sound is broad, resonant on the edges, and heavily blended. There are subtle placements of keyboards into the foreground, along with gentle clicks. At a point where there seems to be a recognizable rhythm or melody, it disperses back into the haze.
Either By Storm Or Low Frequency takes time to develop; initially it has more hushed surroundings, with distance pulses and slow waves. Sounds are buried down deep, almost immersed in rolling surf, reminding me of the analog warmth of Tangerine Dream’s album Rubycon (one of my favorite TD albums). BD is quite good at disguising the instrumentation—sounds seeming to be more keyboard-based, with purer tones entering the sound-mantra and slowly dissolving as if being pulled back into a sonic undertow.
The foreground takes a more prominent role in With Closed Mouth. The contrast of far and near is sharper. The more dominant sounds could be the concurrent mechanics of the music being created, or blended field recordings. There is interplay between reverberant sustained guitar and muted keyboards. The result is a feeling of suspension, yet with some of the most tangible sounds on the album. Melting Tines returns to clustered tones. It’s a gentle wall of sound, punctuated by an almost reluctant guitar, and then veiled appearances of a piano. An environmental-dominant foreground opens Waiting for the Rain. It could be an early morning street scene of a city coming back to life on a gray morning with placid breezes. The album closes with From Ebb To Flow, which again blends the sounds of the outdoors with an expanding tonal haze and an undercurrent of low frequency pulses before fading.
Since I tend at times to prefer more discreet sounds in mixes, I found that there were brief moments (particularly in the last track) where I was distracted by a “tape-saturated” ambience, but I stress that this is a particular quirk of mine. I listen to music in the ambient and drone realms as vehicles to either clear my mind or to transport to a different (and often more pleasurable) zone. Listening to works on the drone side of the spectrum, however, tends to be a more sensory intensive experience, even if the desired end result is a more numbed state of being.
Benjamin Dauer’s explorations in The Pace of Which will take you to many places with transformative and lush fabrics of sound—his work blurs the edges of the recognizable with richness beyond expected musical genre norms. I’m looking forward to the further results of his experimentation and play.
More on Benjamin Dauer’s band The Dwindlers here: http://thedwindlers.com/
The Pelican and the Girl – From Allegories