London-based party Make Me will be hosting an evening with Roman Flügel and BNJMN next month, and we have a pair of tickets to give away.
We have a pair of tickets to give away to the forthcoming Electric Minds outdoor summer session in London featuring Âme, Sven Weisemann, Kowton and BNJMN.
Introducing an artist to the world via a set of remixes of material not yet heard is a risky and rarely used method, but it can work. Back when Skudge were cloaked in all manner of faceless mystique, a brilliant Aardvarck remix of their then-unreleased track “Convolution” made for an instant mental entry on this writer’s internal notepad, as it probably did for many others, and possibly made a lot of people wonder who they were.
We’ll save you the usual rhetoric that surrounds these lists – that of it being hard to translate electronic music into the traditional long player format – and we won’t bother dissecting the argument that the modern consumption of music lessens the importance of albums; for our money there’s still nothing more rewarding that settling in and listening to an LP in its glorious entirety.
What we have done, however, is hand pick our 20 favourite albums from the past 12 months. Those of you who traverse these pages on a regular basis will see a liberal sprinkling of the artists and labels we’ve supported all year (and hopefully a couple of surprises too).
We have endeavored only to select albums that have truly moved us, ones that we find ourselves returning to again and again. In our minds 2011 was a vintage year for albums – the wondrous breadth of style and substance in our top 20 testifies to that – and we’ve included detailed descriptions of each release in our list for your reading pleasure.
If you ignore his vowel-free stage name, it would appear that there is little to connect Ben Thomas to recent developments in electronic music. Thomas’s debut earlier this year on Rush Hour’s Direct Current sub-label and now this follow-up have nothing in common with mnml or the new school jack of the Chicago paeans. Thomas does appear to inhabit a different world, one populated by half-heard melodies and dreamy textures, as if the soul of Detroit techno were to be re-imagined by a Gothic novelist.
However on closer inspection it’s clear that Thomas does not live in a vacuum and is indeed in touch with current sounds. Despite his interest in the more ethereal end of techno’s mood spectrum, most of the tracks on 141 have a surprisingly modern(ist) feeling. “One Sea” for example, sounds like John Roberts pushed to the outer limits of abstraction, its dreamy chords underscored by the mournful pitter-patter of broken, fragile beats.
“We Are The Weather” meanwhile is a beautifully atmospheric piece, but is powered by a robust bass. “Inout” also shows that Thomas is deeply interested in both the recent past and the present as break beats halfway between drum’n’bass and techno tempos are fused with the kind of spooky techno melodies that Convextion specialises in. BNJMN has mapped out his own enclave in the techno continuum - to join him, just dial 141.
In recent times, Rush Hour’s Direct Current offshoot has been a constant source of inspirational, dancefloor baiting material. Seemingly designed to offer a retro-futurist take on house from producers perhaps better known for their more experimental material – most recently seen on the thrilling, head-warping releases from Cosmin TRG and BNJMN – the imprint has rarely put a foot wrong to date.
This two-tracker fits neatly into the RH DC template. Braille is a new pseudonym for Praveen, one half of post-dubstep visionaries Sepalcure (whose recent Hotflush EP Fleur was one of that label’s most interesting and forward-thinking releases yet). In true RH DC style, the tracks presented here offer a cutting-edge take on house music that gives classic Chicago jack and the melodic futurism of Detroit a fresh new twist.
“The Year 3000” opens with a delay-laden vocal snippet from Sterling Void’s Chicago classic “It’s Alright”, before sprinting off on a woozy journey into 21st century Euro-jack – all dub-laden percussion, heavyweight 808 thumps, hissing jazz cymbals, spiralling vocal cut-ups and heavy, off key chords. The bassheads currently making their first forays into house will love it.
“Leavin’ Without You” treads a similar path, but offers more basic, straightforward thrills. A heartfelt vocal sample nimbly dances round a ricocheting rhythm of off-beat 4/4 percussion, densely layered chords and mind-altering FX. By the time the organs drop after two minutes, you’ll be lost in the pulsing, ever-evolving groove. Like its impressive A-Side, “Leavin’ Without You” is off-kilter late night house music of the highest order.
23 year-old Ben Thomas has made music under a number of guises during the past few years, but his finest moment arrived last month in the form of Plastic World, his debut album for Rush Hour’s Direct Current imprint. Released seemingly out of nowhere, it was a remarkably assured long player, deftly mixing a variety of styles to create something utterly unique.
At first listen BNJMN’s material stands aside from the garage leanings of the other artists on the same imprint (Cosmin TRG, FaltyDL, Policy, Aardvarck), but his material shares the same unmistakable warm melodic sheen that comes from the very roots of vintage Chicago house, and the same dark, skewed outlook on house styles as his label mates.
Winning comparisons to contemporaries such as Lone and Actress for his sound, that is both of the past (particularly the distinct early 90s sound that his music seems to have), yet distinctly futuristic (in places even sci-fi), Plastic World is an album that seems to exist in a vacuum, both in terms of genre and in the spacious nature of his all encompassing production style. So, with this in mind, we took the opportunity to ask him about his inspirations, processes, and whether the 90s really are important to his music…
Rush Hour’s Direct Current series has already struck gold on several occasions – most notably the back scratching endeavours of FaltyDL and Cosmin TRG – however a shift upwards in ambition and a swerve in focus towards these shores has delivered a truly startling full length album from BNJMN. The latest alias of Ben Thomas, a young UK producer whose work has featured under a variety of names for labels such as Svetlana Industries and Tirk, Plastic World could feasibly be conceived as Thomas finding his true musical identity.
From the opening shards of melancholia that characterise the swirling euphoric futurism of “Blocks”, your senses are flushed with a certain urge to connect physically and mentally. It’s possible to draw comparisons with Emerald Fantasy Tracks, Lone’s impressive not quite an album, as both draw influences from the same fertile period of UK experimentalism within electronica and techno whilst sounding totally contemporary. However, whereas Lone’s release felt like there was something lacking at times – perhaps the thematic continuity of an album that Cutler himself admitted was missing – Plastic World captivates throughout.
This is an album that’s covered in a glistening sheen of utopian futurism; from the grinding amphibian machine funk of “Wheels In Motion” to the more upwardly mobile jacking acid melodies of “Tunnel Flight”, BNJMN seems to posses an innate and auspicious talent for creating music that’s just as suited for the floor as your headphones.
What also impresses is a willingness to switch between tempos and sensations, seek out “Fire In The Hole” for epic, multi layered beatdown pressure which accrues a rusted purple vibe as it rattles along. Alongside this there is “Traditions” which sounds like three different ideas laid on top of each other, yet instead of being a horrible mess you are hit with the force of something thrilling, introspective and mystical which recalls Aphex Twin and Juan Atkins at their finest.
Whilst “Blocks” has been most commonly claimed as the track that will draw you in, it is perhaps “See Through The Stars” that leaves the most lasting impression, throwing together frosted soundscapes with throbbing bass and tingling percussion and washing them with rich sounding shafts of upwards electronic melody with jaw dropping results.