November 26, 2010

Benguela and the dizzy flow.

Filed under: mick raubenheimer,music — ABRAXAS @ 4:44 am

Eternal recurrence – Discs that are always spinning in Benguela’s minds:

Ross Campbell, drummer: Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden
Brydon Bolton, bassist: Steve Reich – Music for 18 musicians
Alex Bozas, guitarist: Radiohead – Hail to the thief

Chaos theory.

Formed in the appropriate serendipity of coincidence Benguela begot itself when drummer Ross Campbell and bassist Brydon Bolton were asked on shortshort notice to back an Alex Bozas folk gig in ’96 – the night revealed an uncanny musical rapport between the three, and the rule-shirking outfit entered evolution.

Ross Campbell: “It took time to realize that what we were doing was special in this way – that complete surrender to improvisation (instead of coming up with more structure to lean on) was in fact the key – the risk of monumental failure gives us our edge.”

There’s a smattering of curious, sometimes indefinable radars present in the improvisational fields of Benguela’s performances, suggesting beacons and contra-punt, picking up forgotten or future trails of breadcrumb as the vector-defying trio soar and idle and roundabout and otherwise navigate their magnetic flux of ocean/

* What non-musical stimuli have most significantly influenced Benguela?

Ross: “I think we’re each influenced by different non-musical things and that’s what makes up our sound. I personally have always loved sounds made by all kinds of objects and nature – from the sea to the vacuum cleaner – [love] trying to mimic them.. Alex is a photographer and Brydon a book/knowledge whore and nature-lover, but you’d have to ask them the same question.. ”

The audience receiving the tangent-hungry improvs is one radar
(subdivided into others – that oke slurring “Yeah!” in response
to an otherwise insignificant movement signals a bleep; that gaggle of
gals giggling into pert palms signals another. Small seasons of
awed silence might represent rare metronomes of bleep). Then there’re
the respective moods of the three on a given outing – Bozas perhaps irrate
at the crudely unsympathetic sound-system, the deceitful monitors;
Campbell giddy from some personal happyhood; Bolton itching to throw in
some destabilizing bass-riffs, just to ride the consequence..
And then you have the oneiric radars of the instruments in-hand: The bouzouki’s
third string deciding to de-tune itself a fraction in aid of some inscrutable
agenda; the drum-kit tonight crisper and more elastic than a Tony Williams
wet-dream; the double-bass weighted with secret history.. invoking a
royal chamber-orchestra’s ascetic, percussive thuds/

* This is your first album in which the studio and (first-time external) producer have played a key role in the material’s outcome – was this a little scary, or an exciting letting-go?

Ross: “ There was no letting go Haha – we held on by our teeth! It was exciting to see what we could do this way, but also an exercise in trust. This time we improvised for the whole day, chose what we liked and then spent a year overdubbing, editing and mixing. Dirk [Hugo, producer] was very central to this and put in a huge amount of time getting things right, and hats off to him for doing so.”

A complex of radars bleep their findings and suggestions, their
moans and delights and outcries when Benguela do their thing.
And they, in turn, adjust their three respective rudders as they desire –
letting their mysterious, inter-sympathetic compass guide their swells
and ciphers; splattering over the next unexpected crest, inhaling the fresh
salt of new horizons. And that’s just the first track/

* 7 years is a weighty gestation. Was the recording-session for ‘Black South Easter’ markedly touched by this?

Ross: “It is, and it was. We took a break (ok, we broke up) for a couple of years because we’d settled into a sound and the music wasn’t feeling fresh anymore. The break was the best thing we could’ve done because we had each moved on through different projects and were able to bring something new back to Benguela. Somehow we came back a little more aggressive..”

New adventure ‘Black South Easter’ is out now, mightily punted by reviewers with shiny ears. Grab hold and let it take you where it will.!

[originally published in Muse magazine]

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