There are these electronic albums that break certain boundaries. Nowadays it is getting much harder to come up with alienating or exciting concepts that blend aesthetic virtues with hardware-based peculiarities. One artist who is steadily releasing mind-blowing EP's of the eclectic and minimalistic kind is Ben Edward aka Benge whose work I got to know via Bristol's Drone expert and Bandcamp curator John Doak who releases his own works under the names of Fontaine and Sun. His expanding collection of other artists' worthwhile Bandcamp releases is called Cuisine, and Benge is part of this staple as well. In general, Ben Edwards fathoms out the interactive possibilities of synthesizers which makes his works much more tied to the frosty Glitch genre than the potentially warm Drone scheme, although both styles tend to coalesce in his arrangements in order to form alienating planets. His latest work at the time of writing this review is the five-track EP called Rebisus, released at the very end of 2012 and available to purchase (name your price) and listen to in full at Bandcamp; the overarching topic is aptly described by the artist as "the inner pulse." It is a very remote, baneful and apocalyptic work that lightens up over its course, and it is this slow process that is so fascinating to watch, no: experience. Whereas other artists keep their setups and tweaks a secret, Benge lists every synth and element used in his work, sometimes even on a per song base. On Rebisus, Ben Edward creates an interactive system comprising of – according to the liner notes – "oscillators and white noise generators; voltage controllers and processors including step sequencers, clock dividers, and potentiometers; audio processors including amplifiers, reverberation units, tape delay and keyed analog compression." It is a feast for knowledgeable producers, but the real achievement is based on the various triggers and lanes built into the system that help creating the five tracks which are called Fourm One till Five. In short, a certain sound is connected to different processes and effects, which are themselves entangled and cause incessant counter-reactions. The result is gloomy, minimal, menacing and so unlike his previous EP Minertua from August 2012 that has been very bright, ecclesiastic and crystalline, with lots of turquoise-tinted shimmers and an incessant stream of aqueous wraithlike susurrations. Rebisus is the strong opposite. At first. 


Fourm One is nothing more than a short opener that does not even cross the line of 90 seconds, but such assertions would be wrong. Even though it is an opener from a technical viewpoint, its aesthetics serve as the gateway to the dark world of Rebisus, and in tandem with the cyberspace noir front cover, this first vignette really sets the bar. Gales and airflows whirr in stop-and-go motion, elastic dark matter pads and their wonkier counterparts in higher regions both encapsulate hints of reverberation while they spun between the stereo channels, and vault-evoking bass blebs ennoble the miasmatic malevolence of the harsh scenery. Fourm One is distant, there is no maudlin element in here, and this critter is only partially digestible due to its short duration. Its purpose is to present – or better still: unleash – the timbre, atmosphere and the allotted aural blisters. Fourm Two revs the seriousness up, and decidedly so. Its nine minutes are supercharged with desolate entanglements and irremediable conditions. The color palette and the surfaces of the textures are similar to the opener: wind gusts, screeching metallic sine waves and brazen scintillae are perniciously reunited, but the actual jaw-dropper in this soundscape is the ferocious bassline. Yes, it is a straight 4/4 beat, but it is not necessarily destroying the uneasy ambience of this piece (or its subsequent brethren) rather than augmenting the bleak outlook. It is an ingredient Wolfgang Voigt used incessantly in his four Gas LP’s, and half of the time the pumping beats interpolated the dusky Ambient structures behind them, a rather curious but successful happenstance. It so unfolds on Fourm Two that the prominent beat is the aorta of the track, constantly being meshed with machine-like clangs and gunmetal outbursts. These vesicles may be loud and appear all of a sudden, but they are strangely mellow and whitewashed. A diffuse veil covers their acidity and coats their aggression. The snare drums and other acid ornaments that gyrate around the beat, however, are enormously combative. Fourm Two remains torn and highly alienating until the end. Echoes, reverb, sustain and a lack of this trio in some sounds causes a bewildering yet enthralling ride.


Fourm Three is the centerpiece of over ten minutes. Kicking off its existence with a slowly oscillating sine drone that resembles the sound of electricity, it outgrows this entrancing state after a mere 30 seconds already when a mellow bassline, buzzing sawtooth cylons and cyber crickets (!) float through the arrangement. The warmth of the backing drone is surprising, even more so if one considers that it is independent of any prerogative of interpretation, its state feels only snugly due to its frequency range and voluminosity, not because Ben Edwards has tweaked a certain aspect or color he wants to carve out. It is a shady warmth this drone unleashes, and it won’t ever stop until the tune is over. Counterarguments to this thermal heat arrive to the rescue and create a tenser movement without sounding too morose themselves. Clicking droplets and plinking fizzles coalesce constantly, and their huge reverb is a tad eerie, but also very vivid. The last two minutes encounter aquatic clangs and a bassline that becomes much more muffled and blurry. Fourm Three is definitely the second-most accessible of Benge’s concoctions; it has a steady beat, an endemic aura of sawtooth-fueled warmth and vigorous gelid particles which cut through the murky air. I prefer the following Fourm Four though. It unchains its beat immediately, and this time it is a downbeat Hip-Hop stomper with orbiting haze fields, crackling downwards spiraling wind gusts and soft faux-shakers. The beat is really great, and to be honest, Benge has indeed left proper Ambient realms, but Glitch fans will be all the more happy with the laser pulse-driven second half and the delicate intermingling of the various forms of decay and release. And even for a Glitch track, Fourm Four is eminently fo(u)rmulaic, the beat structure never changes, let alone is it perturbed by a syncopated segue in the style of electronic Hip-Hop artists. Its consistency and endurance are a huge plus, for they allow the underpinning flecks and molecules to illuminate the scenery. The closing track is anything short of a real surprise: Fourm Five discovers melodies, and not just traces thereof, but fully fleshed out Power Ballad-resembling guitar-esque chords whose luminescence lets them tower above the previous apocalypses. The core of the melody comprises of lachrymose sine chimes. Their echo is then plastered with mildly overdriven screeches. An easygoing beat, warm legato bass accompaniments and underlining spectral synths float into a – gasp! – Dream Rock track. That there is no guitar involved makes Fourm Five and its final crescendo in euphony decidedly more glam than honest-to-goodness rockers would ever care to admit. 


Benge's Rebisus remains a harsh work if you listen to it as is, without knowing the background wizardry that Ben Edward advected into each sine tone, synth and filter. Acknowledging this very setting, however, opens up the work and makes it a little bit more transparent. Regardless of whether one is an innocent listener or expert music producer, Rebisus is a brutish beast of an EP that gets only tamed ever so slightly over its course. Whereas the opener provides a cold, crestfallen and wind-penetrated panorama that matches the portentous colors of the front artwork in a pitch-perfect way, it is the following parts of the Fourm tracks that hide a danger-evoking but increasingly soothing mélange of metallic stabs, reverberated clouds of haze and laser sounds. And once the club-oriented 4/4 rhythm changes into a Hip-Hop downbeat on Fourm 4, the swirling atoms and slivers become calmer as well. Culminating in a truthfully melodious euphoria on Fourm 5, Rebisus has not come full circle rather than having reached a state it never truly had in its beginning. It's called progression. Sound aesthetes might allege that Ben Edward succumbed to the harmonies and more conventional Dream Rock sceneries, but since no real guitar is ever used on this EP, the mimicry of its characteristics is the audible showcase factor. I lack the knowledge of truly understanding the hardware concept and the several thickets of intertwining sounds in their full glory, but as stated before, detach Rebisus from this behind-the-scenes concept and you get a proper Glitch album of the ferocious kind that shifts its shape over time. If it is too dark for your taste, consider Benge's Minertua, the coruscating counterpart with a greater focus on Ambient structures.



Further listening:
You can purchase (name your price) and listen to Benge's Rebisus in full at Bandcamp.




Ambient Review 205: Benge – Rebisus (2012). Originally published on Apr. 17, 2013 at