Album Reviews - Reviews

Benjamin Finger – Pleasurably Lost/Motion Reverse


Norwegian producer Benjamin Finger is having quite a prolific year. An insatiable creator, he moves between genres and modes of production without any pressure to stick in one particular lane. Having released the melancholic Pleasurably Lost on niche French label Eilean Rec some months back, he’s just put out Motion Reverse on Dutch-based Shimmering Moods. The two albums are blissful and haunting in equal measure, yet express their respective ideas in hugely opposing fashions.

Recorded in Oslo over a period of three years, Pleasurably Lost was inspired by Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. This writer’s work was concerned with paradox and the absurd, and while the music here is more understated than that influence might suggest, it is imbued with a restless air, laced throughout with droning repetition and looped sounds. The album opens with unintelligible vocals and piano before drifting more into muted tones and lilting, wordless female vocals from regular collaborator Inga Lill Farstad.

Tracks like ‘Lull in the Momentary’ use odd, haunting cello and floating piano, moving from untold strangeness towards emotive melody and operatic strains. The title track is singularly warped, with strange, hushed vocals and short, two-note piano modulations adding maudlin sorrow. Floating onwards, towards ‘Weepingdictionaryhands’, more piano plodding meets the playful sound of children and barking dogs. Croaking trumpet and undulating guitar meet twinkling xylophone and ride cymbal, not unlike a Sufjan Stevens vignette yet here standing tall, its orchestral tune-up is both chaotic and beautifully hypnotic.

The album appears to climax with the curious vocals and droning string patterns of ‘Ferdyduke’ (titled after Gombrowicz), with its dank piano lines and swollen electronic fizz. Two more tunes follow, however, with discordant noise and harsh electric guitar, though true closer ‘Do Widzenia’ ends with bright guitar melodies.

If Pleasurably Lost was built around muffled piano tones, Motion Reverse is a paean to the beauty of synths. Opening with whirring vocal samples and rattles, voices stretched up and down, its patterns seem similarly repetitive yet grounded in electronics rather than any natural rhythm. Sounds shuffle, samples jump and drop with seeming sounds of propellers driving the album forward. ‘Frontal Waves’ and ‘Dubstore Light’ are built from the same bare bones, 12 minutes of chugging throb fading in and out in different directions. Beats make brief appearances yet never last in any expected fashion; jittering mechanisms power on and off, squawking here and there. ‘Childish Tape’, appropriately, features the utterances of a toddler alongside languid tones undermined by a throbbing bass. The chuggy vein continues with ‘Black Hat’, all ebb and flow, with rough distortion playing out over hazy synth washes.

The album moves towards a beatless trance state in its latter stages, with standout ‘Sunny Echoes’ making use of incredible undulating movements and trance-ready synths. Closing with a kind of serene distortion, its title and sonics collude to create an incredible conflation of sound and vision. ‘Bright Exit’ adds to this beauty, with shimmering melodies dancing hazily above mischievous vocals and twangs. Closer ‘Dream Logic’ begins with a kind of hazy murk, but its haunting cascades lead towards an enlightening grace, again, tying in beautifully with its title. It might not make sense if you step away from it, but in the moment, everything is perfect.

If these two gorgeous albums were not enough, he’s got yet another coming soon on Blue Tapes and X Ray Records called Amorosa Sensitiva (itself titled after a collection of short stories by Swedish author Ola Hansson), printed on frosted clear 180g vinyl. As expected, it maintains a similar level of quality yet explores ambient and instrumental music in even further directions, typifying his voracious approach. Aidan Hanratty