Review: Benjamin Dauer – The Pace of Which
Twice Removed Records – Time: About 39 Minutes – Limited Edition CDr (50 copies)
Record Label: http://twiceremovedrecords.blogspot.com/ & http://twicerememberedtwiceremoved.bandcamp.com/
Artist Websites: http://www.benjamindauer.is/ & https://soundcloud.com/benjamindauer
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
The Dwindlers – Allegories
CD: #has002 Time: 29:15
Limited Edition (50 copies per edition) on-demand published with illustrated booklet, poetry & credits. Review copy is from First Edition.
Band Website: http://thedwindlers.com/
Member websites: http://www.michelleseaman.net/ and http://www.benjamindauer.net/
Heart and Soul label: Allegories
Previous Album on FeedbackLoop label: Dreams
Tracks: 1) The Pelican and The Girl; 2) Monkey; 3) How The Ostrich Became a Girl and Her Bicycle; 4) Pickering’s Hyla; 5) Widow, Daddy, and the Wolf; 6) Peacock and the Kitty; 7) Dolphin
Spoken word recordings have existed since the advent of wax and foil cylinder recorders. In the 1920s as Jazz was developing as a musical genre, poets were exploring differing rhythms and styles in their works, breaking away from more traditional forms of meter and rhyme. These were the explorations of E. E. Cummings, T. S. Eliot, Jazz Poet Langston Hughes and others. Syncopated rhythms, phrases repeated, and with some poets, the rejection of traditional conventions of punctuation and manuscript.
The Dwindlers are poet Michelle Seaman and bassist composer Benjamin Dauer. Their collaboration started in 2002 in Chicago and they now create their work in the southeastern US. Their first album was the digitally released “Dreams” on the FeedbackLoop Label #FbL 008.
Allegories combines instrumental Jazz with poetry and includes printed poems (of tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7) with illustrations by Seaman and instrumentation (I assume) by Dauer. It’s a very interesting and challenging album and I find the approach to be quite refreshing! It is a relatively short recording, spanning between a long EP and a full-length CD. Subjects relate to fauna, instincts, desire, observations, phobias and inner monologues (without being self-indulgent). The printed poems appear to be a framework for the apparently improvised recorded performances (might there be further improvisations during a live performance?).
As Jazz music is about listening, sharing, improvising, and responding, poetry can be used as another instrument or voice in an ensemble for counterpoint or support. Beat Generation writers expanded on this, like Jack Kerouac who was sometimes accompanied with improvised music during poetry readings (composer David Amram was known to sit-in and jam piano or bongos during readings). Jazz and Jazz Poetry has also been about activism and in the 1970s Gil Scott-Heron emerged (being influenced by Hughes) as a powerful voice in topical and confrontational spoken-word Soul, Jazz & Blues. Scott-Heron (also a rap music pioneer) greatly influenced later hip-hop groups like Public Enemy.
Other artists have continued to explore the spoken-word with a variety of music and multi-media artists influences: Jim Morrison and The Doors (described as “electric poets”), Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Harold Budd (as on his 1991 album By The Dawn’s Early Light), and more recently the 2011 collaboration of Brian Eno and poet Rick Holland on their album Drums Between The Bells, and the growling reflections of Leonard Cohen on his 2012 album Old Ideas.
The voices of Allegories are sultry with occasional interplay of the technically descriptive. There are changing points of view and perspectives—seeing through another’s eyes (not necessarily human). The way the words are phrased against the music; they sometimes transform into layered double-entendres. The often-hypnotic and stark instrumentation punctuates the spaces between the words with a foundation of acoustic bass, layered electronics and percussion, adding to the tension and release.
The Pelican and the Girl starts with a shimmering veil and then plays between female and male voices and further heightens an implied sexual tension as descriptions shift from bird to woman and back. There are points where the words lure one into an imagined scene only to be returned to a stark lesson on natural history. The drums and bass during Monkey are reminiscent of Morello & Wright’s vibe on Take Five (from the album Time Out) and voice, although monotone; is similar to the interplay of Desmond and Brubeck. Pickering’s Hyla is an instrumental break and sounds akin to a forest at the vernal pools at dusk. The second half of the album is more layered, electronic and ambient after a sensuous acoustic “theme and response” bass introduction to Widow, Daddy and the Wolf. Peacock and the Kitty and Dolphin gently pulse with Seaman’s voice stroking fur, feather and flowing through water.
Allegories is a provocative and engaging album of poetry—vivid and shifting with very musical, alluring and technical Jazz counterpoint. The recording has a welcomed softness that does not compromise the clarity. It would certainly be suitable as background music (and would likely pique the curiosity of a roomful of listeners), but I found it best played at the level of a live performance to fully appreciate it.
The Pelican and the Girl (and two others) – The Dwindlers
This is a solicited review.