benj – as chaos ensues; I remain

 benj – as chaos ensues; I remain

benj – as chaos ensues; I remain – EP Review

You gotta at least be as amused as I am about the thought of someone out there making time for the kind of punctuation like a semicolon, yet having clearly no use for capitalization.  That’s what we call interesting in the nerd world of writing…but I don’t think anyone’s ever accused benj of being normal.

Dude’s been doin’ what he does for at least a year or so as far as I know.  I started listening last year back in August before I ended up reviewing his EP called That’s A Wonderful Idea, which, as a side-note, looks like I chose to add capital letters to, where none actually existed.  What can I say…I can’t stand the short-track trend in the music scene as of late, and I have a harder time not adding capital letters where they’re supposed to go.  We are who we are.  I don’t ask anyone to change, and hopefully vice versa.

I really enjoyed what I heard from this musical oddity known as benj last year, and I’d say that largely remains true on this new record as chaos ensues; I remain – no capital letters this time, out of the respect I’ve gained for the creator.  Anyhow.  There’s gonna be an argument to be made that this EP is a little front-loaded – I’d imagine a good nine out of ten folks listening are probably going to feel like “dry and raspy” is the record’s best cut, and I’d likely be in the majority vote as well.  Artists like benj don’t need a whole lot of advice from a guy like me, or anyone else for that matter…a creative mind like this simply needs encouragement to continue to grow for the most part.  I’ve got my opinions like I always do of course, but in terms of the technical stuff, this guy don’t really need a whole lot of help.  I have the feeling benj is always gonna do what benj does, you feel me?  “dry and raspy” is pretty much freakin’ brilliant if you ask me…not only is it catchy, but it’s equally creative by design…that’s not only rare in general, but it’s the standout cut on this EP for that very reason.  There’s more accessibility in this artistic vibe than you’re used to usually finding in something as anti-typical as this opening track truly is, and it’s a standard that would be monumentally tough to keep up to.  Listen that killer snare sound added in around the 1:20 mark will ya?  I was already into this track from the melody in the music to the way that benj does his vocals in this track too…his creativity makes a genuine impact and it’s the main feature in this first cut, but the snare was like the cherry on top of all the other cherries we’re enjoying.  Musically, this completely stands out…which is something that’s fairly true of all four songs on the EP I suppose, but credit where credit is due, the vocals are an insightfully creative match in this first cut too.

He might not use capitals, but at least his songs are a decent length.  “amongst? perchance” reveals an instant drop in accessibility by about 50-100%…and ultimately, benj is gonna have to reconcile with that.  It can’t be anything he’s not already aware of…the dude knows how to make music catchy if that’s what he chooses to do, so he’s clearly intended to take a hard left where you’d expect him to go right in this instance.  Somewhere in the second minute, he’ll throw the masses a bit of a lifeline and add a bit of a pattern to his vocals…and towards the third minute, the music reaches an outstanding level of quality in its creativity and intensity combined.  Arguably, as long as you’re not the kind of person that completely needs a verse/chorus/verse thing goin’ on to enjoy the music you consume, the latter half of “amongst? perchance” stands a true possibility of redeeming itself for the majority of listeners out there.  I don’t know that the final switch with about thirty-seconds left on the clock was entirely necessary, but I do like that benj always seems to work in about three or four song’s-worth of ideas into one tune to keep us on our toes.  To give the guy the real credit he deserves, listen to the actual ingredients in the melody of this song as it begins, and you’ll realize that he’s got a gift of making the ordinary extraordinary.  Like, he’s gotta be careful somewhat, and mindful to push the boundaries creatively in that sense – it’s not like the guitar melody he’s rockin’ with is anything complicated or complex, and in anyone else’s tunes, you’d probably tell them to go back to the drawing board instead.  With benj, he surrounds that musical hook with a bunch of other wild stuff from vocal effects to the sounds you’ll hear in the atmosphere to go with the cleverness of his production…and somehow, all is forgiven…what appeared simple becomes powerfully involved & undeniably engaging.  I didn’t love the digital bass as we crossed that first minute, I felt like that was way overpowering in the mix compared to every other aspect within the song and far too dominating – but after the brief breakdown in the middle, hearing this song launch itself into its peak intensity around the 2:45 mark was a serious revelation.  The vocals are nearly altogether drowned out, and I’m alright with that…they didn’t really subtract, but I don’t know that they added much either, and when you consider the magnitude of the music at full strength, that’s all we really wanna hear.  It’s that last iteration of the vocals that ends up making the biggest impression on us, right before this song wraps up to shift into a thirty-second patch of strangeness in transition to switch over to the next track.  Repetition will play a large role…the more you hear this song, the more you’ll dig what the vocals add to it…I’m not convinced it’s as effective as an instrumental might be, but the more I heard it, the more I liked it as a whole.  Some of the greatest stuff we’ll ever hear in this life appears more perplexing at first.

“last name (music for aidan)” (Like, aidan don’t even get a capital A?  Yoooooooo.) will probably be even more demanding on your attention at first than the previous track…it takes a minute or two and a few spins to get your head around this song.  This would be a solid example of a track that I’d point to, where it’d be practically impossible to understand how this all came together in benj’s head before it simply became the song that it is.  If you looked at this on paper, it’d make no sense at all – and hearing it really doesn’t end up clarifying that for us any clearer – it’s as strange as a composition really gets when it comes right down to it, and once again as anti-typical as a tune could pretty much ever be.  Which ultimately tells me that benj is onto something here.  I don’t expect that people will catch onto a track like “last name (music for aidan)” overnight, or the majority of tunes on this EP for that matter, but there is always something that’ll catch your ear goin’ on that’ll be key to convincing you to come back for a second helping, etc. etc. – and the more you listen, the more magic benj’s tunes seem to work on ya.  I’ll be real with ya about “last name (music for aidan)” in the sense that, I’m kind of neither here nor there about the first two minutes or so…I love the music, and I love the production, but the rest is a little mid for my taste.  Somewhere just past the two-minute mark, benj turns on the melodic charm like you’ve yet to hear on this record so far, and we practically forget anything even existed prior to that point once we get to that transition.  Again, he’s getting away with a LOT here…if you listen to the core of the bass-line that pulls us in, it’s damn near as pedestrian and ‘normal’ as you can get by definition, yet somehow the results he’s yielded are bloody magical, and we can’t get enough of what we hear.  Make no mistake – doing something like that is incredibly tough to pull off – any single one of us could play that bass-line, yet probably not get an ounce of the same melodic magic that benj achieves with it.  In any event, like I always tell ya, a single moment can quite often make a whole song stand out to the people listening, and “last name (music for aidan)” certainly has a memorable highlight in its transition.

The intensity of “a boys best friend is his dog” (Okay…so like…semicolons are cool but apostrophes aren’t now?  I’m so confused…) is basically guaranteed to get people’s attention, if only for the fact that we go from a nice mellow five out of ten on the scale of intensity into a raging nine/ten real damn quick.  You can’t help but notice and sit up to pay attention…but the question is, will you think it was worth it?  I think benj is probably in a bit of jeopardy this time around…I don’t know that I can make an argument that “a boys best friend is his dog” really fits onto this particular EP, and I’m not sure there’s quite enough in the song for me to advocate on its inclusion either.  benj has indeed, put together a collection of sounds here…and I don’t know that it’s gonna be enough for the people out there listening.  Yes there is somewhat of a core idea that it grazes…at least vocally…but yeah man…I feel like our anti-typical hero here has probably colored just a bit too far outside of the lines for most on this track.  For the first thirty seconds, I was fairly convinced there could be something here…maybe even the first minute if I’m being honest with ya…but I think the decision to turn up the amps and make some serious noise got the better of our friend benj.  It’s the low-key moments of clarity that end up making the biggest impact on us, and I kind of wish we got a bit longer with the piano melody than we do…the rest surrounding it I was much less confident in.  As far as the vocals go…I think there needs to be a bit more intent on benj’s part if they’re really gonna be added in.  The melody for’em ain’t bad, but in the mix, they’re damn near like an afterthought, and set so deep in the song that they’re practically inaudible…so I’m not so sure they’re really adding to the song overall.  That’s really what things always come down to for me…purpose, intent, and functionality…an ingredient has to have that if it’s really serving the song, otherwise it’s probably something that’s getting in the way of the rest of what we hear.  I don’t know that the vocals are that detrimental to “a boys best friend is his dog” at the end of the day…I guess I’m of the mind that even if they became a featured element, it still wouldn’t be enough to save this last track.  Production is solid though…and I still respect the fact that it’s different AF, even if it doesn’t quite work out in benj’s favor this time around.  Bottom line is, he takes chances with his music and challenges convention in the music he makes…ultimately, it’s artists like this guy that achieve incredible breakthroughs because they’re willing to do things differently.  It ain’t always easy…there are ups and downs and peaks and valleys in that kind of approach, but when he strikes the real gold, there’s no possible way you’ll miss it.

As it stands, I think benj has got more in the tank than he’s showing us this time on as chaos ensues; I remain, but that first track alone should be well worth the price of admission and checking out the rest.

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