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Frank Benkho – The Revelation According To Frank Benkho

Clang

The Revelation According to Frank BenkhoFrank Benkho takes us on a voyage down starry rivers and beneath obsidian deserts, using a daisy chain of synths and sequencers on this gem from Clang.

For the longest time, it seemed like electronic music and improvisation were mutually exclusive. This was the day of the push-button performance, where electronic artists were basically just playing their records off of stored patterns on their machines or DJs concocted carefully constructed breezeblocks, with every transition being staged and perfectly polished. The very act of building music out of samples meant your sonic palette was limited; some improvisation was possible, but it was more akin to shuffling Lego blocks around, trying to create replica masterpieces with a few basic shapes and hues.

The fields where electronica and improv did coincide were typically highly abstract, academic exercises, in styles like electroacoustic improv, digital glitch and MAX/MSP hacking. These brutalist blocks of static and silence continued to push the musical language forward, but were so alien they spoke only to a few.

On The Revelation According To Frank Benkho, the composer/performer seeks to revisit the sounds of former decades, returning to what is simple, to the fundamental notion of creating music and enjoying what you hear. His electronic Hohners and rolling sine waves seem to inherently suggest the work of ’70s synth minimalists like Klaus Schülze, Tangerine Dream and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, but while those keyboardists sometimes seemed to sound like some Baroque, Bach-era bouffant jamming on some 2001 kit (in the best possible way), or like John Paul Jones from The Song Remains The Same playing in a holographic castle, Benkho has updated the sound and approach, somewhat, layering and modulating his analogue source material with modern soundbending capabilities. His goal, as he put it, was “the free improvisation and haphazard overlapping of layers of sound, recorded in distinct moments, that takes us out of the linear mathematics of exact repetition.”

This phasing and repetition takes us back to the minimalism of Steve Reich, with complex layers twining and overlapping into a hypnotic tapestry. By its very nature, the process of playing along to a prescribed and repetitive structure creates a different kind of music, with a different sort of aim than in the Western classical sense of the symphonic narrative. Instead, it bears more of a resemblance to Indonesian gamelan or any kind of trance music anywhere, really, except that this is a ritual which simply would not have been possible before the advent of recording or sampling technology.

Looping, phasing and repetition is creating a new form of music that is both archaic and ritualistic, as well as being entirely unprecedented, without any images to hang on it. It’s a blank slate, and we are free to make up of it what you wish. So, no pretty metaphors this time for Benkhe’s organic organ playing and subdued sine waves, although at times I perceived the waves of a dark sea, conjured by an onyx LFO and the twinkling of dead constellations, if you’d like a prompt to whet your appetite.

As with most modern synth records, Benke’s sound exquisite, running a Serge Modular system and a variety of classy analogue synths like the Moog Minotaur and the Korg MS-10 through a procession of echo, tape delay, reverb and flange. The looping repetition of self-sustaining instrumentation frees up Benkho’s hands to twist, morph and spin sounds, becoming like a demonic organist with eight arms and a djinn in his thrall to hit all the sub-octaves and all the harmonics. It also means that the arrangements never get static or dull.

The Revelation According To Frank Benkho lasts a scant 22 minutes and is perfect to be played over and over, for total immersion and complete sonic mandala meditation. It’s alien and technological and futurist, to be sure, but it’s also got a warm and beating human heart.

Outstanding stuff! The Revelation According To Frank Benkho is a revelation indeed.

-J Simpson-

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