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Ben Reynolds - Music is the Music Language

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Artist: Ben Reynolds

Album: Music is the Music Language

Label: Ikuisuus

Review date: Apr. 6, 2006

Music is the music language is the first release from Ikuisuus, the fledging label/open-ended art project and vision of Jani Hirvonen (a.k.a. Uton) and Timo Puustinen. Ben Reynolds’ own unmoored and unbounded vision is a fitting flagship for a label whose name translates as eternity.

The 12 pieces here are too diffuse to be labeled songs, yet too modest to merit the composition moniker. Instead, sound menageries seems a more appropriate tag, as Reynolds gathers up a wild kingdom of mostly computer generated exotica: filtered moans and gnomic groans, pulsating neon and day-glo tones, flapping drones, avian trills, errant guitar chords. There’s an air of the surreal to pieces like “Swing + Maths” and “Mother Legato.” Both could soundtrack an aquarium of deep-sea creatures, as bubbling streams pulse and flow past half-melodies and misshapen guitar riffs, each following its own undercurrent.

The 40 minutes of Music is the music language drift by without so much as a hint of where Reynolds wants to take the listener. In fact, he seems intent on not taking the listener anywhere in particular, as the pieces wind their way through the same hermetic vacuum of slippery, malleable sound that Stockhausen, Subotnick and other early explorers of the electronic wilderness mapped out.

But rather than a haughty air of arch intellectualism, Reynolds lightens the mood into one of playful mystery. “Spacious Yowl” and “Dictionary Song” teeter and waver like refugees from ’50s B-grade space cinema, while “Curiosity” skips along on an infectious figure that doubles as a melody and rhythm. But it’s pieces like “Serial Hoper” and “Compass & Void Play nice” that reveal Reynolds’ accomplishment. Both feature his finger-picked stylings, here waves of airy notes that get shaped and blended with the surrounding glow of programmed sounds. Reynolds, however, takes no sides between them. Such a lack of hierarchy lets listeners shape and reshape the piece upon each spin, all the time hitting upon new relationships between the sounds.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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