Benjamin Finger, "For Those About to Love"

Sunday, 04 February 2018 00:00 Anthony D'Amico Reviews - Albums and Singles

cover imageIn recent years, Benjamin Finger has become quite a prolific and amusingly elusive artist to try to keep up with, releasing a steady stream of handmade limited editions or small vinyl runs on various European labels.  He has also expanded his palette considerably from the gorgeous psych-collages of his debut (Woods of Broccoli), alternately exploring piano miniatures, off-kilter pop experiments, and an occasional stab at gleefully garbled dance music (and sometimes ingeniously blurring the lines that separate those various facets).  My favorite side of Finger’s art remains his collage side, however, so I was delighted to find that For Those About To Love was a substantial plunge back down that particular rabbit hole.  No one else does sound collage like Finger, as his unshakeable pop sensibility remains intact no matter how deconstructed and lysergic things get, resulting in a lovely snow-globe dream-world swirling with glimpses of warmth, tenderness, and sublime melody.

Flaming Pines

As alert readers may have deduced from the title, For Those About to Love is an album with a strong theme running throughout its nine pieces, as Finger gamely attempts to "journey into the mysteries of the heart."  Such a sincere and ambitious endeavor is admittedly extremely treacherous territory in the realm of underground/experimental music, but it is also a fertile ground for inspiration and deep emotion that occasionally yields some truly great work (like Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's Love is a Stream, for example).  Finger, to his credit, proves to be up to the task, as he deftly sidesteps the saccharine and the predictable in favor of sustained and delirious phantasmagoric plunge into a woozy and flicking haze of nervousness, worry, joy, pain, tenderness, and intimacy.  In some of the better pieces, all of those threads seamlessly intertwine and blur together in a complexly textural and emotionally resonant cocktail.  The opening "Lipstick Shades" is an especially fine example of Finger's deliciously disorienting and abstract necromancy, as a simple piano melody quickly gives way to a billowing psychedelic maelstrom of swooping, cooing female vocals; brooding drones; and a host of strange backwards scrapes, buried loops and snatches of melody.  It feels like I put on an familiar record and it inexplicably began playing backwards to reveal a hypnotic and ghostly world of previously inaudible sounds, plunging me into an uneasy dream state.

While "Lipstick Shades" is certainly representative of the overall aesthetic that pervades Love, Finger’s deliciously blurred, shimmering, and psychedelic world is also a varied one, as he finds a way to imbue each of these surreal vignettes with its own character.  The richest vein surfaces in the middle of the album, as Finger hits a three-song run of lushly immersive and dreamy nirvana.  On the achingly beautiful "Ultraviolet Light," languorous female vocals from Inga-Lill Farstad and Lynn Fister seductively intertwine and blur together in a time-stretched and deconstructed soul jam beset by a chorus of chirping birds.  "Transparent Mind," on the other hand, weaves an obsessively repeating and complexly layered loop of gauzy cooing vocals that feels like modern classical minimalism mingled with submerged synth swoops that resemble a digitized jungle expedition.  Elsewhere, "Eyeball Humidity" mingles together Satie-esque snatches of piano melody with a heady wash of shuddering drones, eerie feedback, childlike yowls, and disorienting field recordings.  It is easily one of the more lysergic mindfucks on the album, as its amorphous structure seamlessly drifts from lovely chord swells to blooping and space-y synth motifs to squalls of gnarled vocals and echoing voices without ever lingering particularly long on any one motif.  Obviously, I like some bits more than others and wish they stuck around longer, but the magic lies in how ephemeral and elusive all the individual pieces seem.  It is like getting an unexpected glimpse of a wonderful memory, then quickly losing it again in the roiling entropy of the subconscious.  Curiously, however, my favorite piece is the closing "Shrink Into Love," which dispenses almost entirely with layered psychedelia in favor of just a stuttering and beautiful chord progression unfolding beneath a haze of angelic vocal drift, albeit one punctuated with some unexpectedly sharp and warbly textures.  It might be simplest piece on the album, but it can afford to be, as it is built upon the strongest motif.

Some of the other songs do not quite work as well or feel more like vaporous interludes than substantial pieces, but how often Finger decisively hits the mark is somewhat irrelevant, as the degree to which he succeeds overall is far more intriguing.  With For Those About to Love, Finger attempts to say the ineffable, quixotically setting out to capture the impossible complexity and nuance of being in love and sometimes unexpectedly succeeding.  To a larger degree, however, this album is even better at evoking the elusive, fragile, and unpredictable nature of memory, unfolding as an alternately lovely and painful flow of decontextualized, recontextualized, and indistinct glimpses of poignant moments or intimations of intense feelings.  As such, this is probably Finger's most ambitious and thematically absorbing album from an artistic standpoint.  It also one of his best albums in general, achieving the sustained depth, immersiveness, and rich attention to detail that is essential for a great headphone album.  More importantly, this album captures what is unique about Benjamin Finger's art extremely well, as he approaches sound collage with a guileless humanity and depth of feeling rarely seen in the experimental music milieu, crafting complex and cerebral soundscapes that are soulfully direct rather than obscured by ambiguous artifice.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 February 2018 09:15