Coming out last month on the Berlin based Karl Records label is the latest effort by Norwegian sonic terrorist Benjamin Finger. Finger, who has featured before in this blog, is joined for this release by Mia Zabelka and James Plotkin (who is these days a renowned masterer). Where one artist starts and ends is a mystery. Finger is credited with Piano, Electronics, Field Recordings and composition, Zalbelka with Electronics and Violin and Plotkin with electric guitar and granular synthesis.
“Pleasure-Voltage” was born in the mind (and studio) of BENJAMIN FINGER – a composer,electronic music producer, DJ, photographer and film-maker based in Oslo / Norway who in recent years has become quite a prolific artist, expanding his stylistic palette from piano miniatures and off-kilter pop experiments to lysergic, dream-like sound collages spiced with gentle warmth and sublime melody. These ingredients are also characteristic on this latest work where FINGER set the musical frame before passing it on to his inspired collaborators: MIA ZABELKA who for decades now has been involved in countless projects, be it as a musician (violin / electronics), curator or founder of the international sound art centre klang.haus and who has worked with a.o. JOHN ZORN, FRED FRITH, ELECTRIC INDIGO, ROBIN RIMBAUD (SCANNER), DÄLEK or PHIL MINTON. And last but not least there’s JAMES PLOTKIN who entered the scene with his first band OLD LADY DRIVERS (or OLD) on EARACHE in 1987 and later was a member of KHANATE (with a.o. STEPHEN O’MALLEY) while also exploring the areas of dark ambient and electronics by working with or remixing SCORN / MICK HARRIS, K.K: NULL and many more.
On “Pleasure-Voltage” which had its live-premiere at the REWIRE festival 2018, the trio
crafts a mesmerizing sonic world that buzzes and drones, glitches and slithers, eventually careening into unexplored musical territory somewhere between ambient / drone /psychedelia.”
“Hostile Structures” confirms from the get go that you are heading into experimental territory. I have no idea to the inspiration behind the composition which leaves me listening to it rather blindly. One thing on the credits listed with the press release was the use of alien objects. This minor credit reveals a bit of the sonic territory you are heading in. There are times of beauty from the raw solo piano and swathes of synth drones that scatter around, but then the piece descends down murky passages, sounds warp, distort and splutter. Electronics flitter about while dialogue is cut up, guitar abstractions cut through changing from droning licks to scratchy treatments. Uncredited haunted vocals hang around like apparitions, sometimes representing child like babbling. Towards the end dance orientated beats buried deep into the track appear, further changing its complexion. Genre wise everything from Ambient to Electroacoustic to Experimental sounds are touched upon. The one thing the piece has in common throughout is the unsettling feeling that it creates. Even when you move into the ‘prettier’ parts of the piece at no point do you ever feel that you’ve escaped this alien landscape. You are just waiting for the next drop down the rabbit hole.
“Kaleidoscopic Nerves” opens rather conventionally mirroring in a way the opening of “Hostile Structures”. Looped haunted voices, ambience, electronic loops and Plotkin’s exploratory guitar playing, you get the feeling that maybe we are heading into the flipside of the other track in that the alien aspects have be swapped from more traditional or ‘prettier’ ones that I mentioned above. Plotkin’s guitar has a sort of alt -country-esque drone quality to it which is something for the listener to grab hold of. It creates a very moody sound, but one that sounds organic in comparison to the other sounds that have gathered now to accompany it (and lead the piece back into “Hostile Structures” like territory). Around the four-minute mark of the piece, loops and glitchy electronics start to dominate completely changing the mood and theme of the piece. From this point the music then ventures into noise territory of the cold and squelchy variety before mutating into industrial-esque soundscapes and improv like piano. This particular part because of the sound of the piano and it’s surrounding cavernous dust soaked ambience lends itself to feeling of nostalgia , before once more heading out into uncharted territory. At this point the music sounds schizophrenic with all the various elements coming in a melding together resulting in a slightly unsettling soundscape that feels like it is slowly malfunctioning. Thankfully the final six minutes brings the listener back from the edge of insanity to more calm, but not too calm territory finishing off with a long feedback like drone.
If I am being truthful I probably wont have this on high repeat – this is purely because over the years I have craved more structure in the music I listen to (I am becoming old in my taste and years). That said, with each listen I find of these two pieces I always come across something else that I didn’t pick up before, which in turn changes my perception of the pieces.
“Pleasure – Voltage” is available on Lp and Digital.