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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Ben Benjamin
The Many Moods of Ben Benjamin Vol. 1
Ghostly International

Rating: 8/10 ?


January 24, 2008
I have stayed mum on this album for far too long. In actuality, Ben Benjamin, aka Ben Mullins (one-third of the under-appreciated Midwest Product [LAS feature]), sent me a copy as soon as he possibly could in hopes that someone would open their ears to what he has been doing for years. Due to some tragic circumstances, The Many Moods of Ben Benjamin Vol. 1 slipped to the back pages of my mind and only recently did I finally come to my senses.

Anyone familiar with Mullins' previous works with Midwest Product or fellow Ghostly artists Post Prior are no doubt familiar with the way in which he tinkers and crafts simple melodies from half-synthesized noise and half-organic instrumentation. Mullins builds songs centered upon short, pop-tinged hooks, surrounding them with a myriad of electronic blings & bleeps, filtered guitar scavenges, rhythmic accentuations, and assorted background supplements. The resulting amalgamation is something partly dance-y, partly indie-fied, and that in large part nods its weird flavor toward the clean, chic stylistics of the 1980s.

As sweet as it sounds, don't check for cavities just yet. There is more to what Mullins does than simply crafting gooey hooks and layering catchy drum patterns on top of one another (although those are perfectly effective guises for any music to take form in). With Many Moods he also mines a lot of atmospherics. Mullins' explorations occasionally find four-minute tracks sauntering into the shadows of the indie/electronic palette to a great effect, and Ben Benjamin isn't afraid to remain there and see what the pop twilight brings. A perfect example is the upbeat "Butane Wayne," in which panning Morse-coded synth notes are spelled by icy sixteenth notes on the ride and a deadened syncopated bass drum pattern. Eventually the song finds a groove with some snare hits and additional spacey, sonic textures to supplement a plucked-string melody.

Such off-kilter creations as Many Moods often go unheralded, but in the case of Ben Benjamin that would be exceptionally unfortunate. Hybrid instrumental electro-indie grooves like "Sassy Blanche," "Hypertexan," and "VIP LCD" are subtle/clean head-nodders, songs that could easily find their way into a Volkswagen commercial someday (ala Vashti Bunyan [LAS feature]) and prompt futurekids to wonder, "Damn, who is that?," and walk away from their photonic viewtubes whistling the catchiest 5-second hook they'd heard in months. Audio historians would wonder if it could be... Pharrell? Timbaland? LCD Soundsystem? But no, they'd all be wrong, as these cuts are the work of a soundmaker of a different breed… It's Ben Benjamin, folks.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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