ASCOLTARE: B.E.A.M. (Tripel Records)
Tripel Records 2007
08 Tracks. 50mins49secs
Ascoltare | Ascoltare B.E.A.M. | Tripel Records
From complex glitched up electronica with occasional orchestral tendencies to digital hip-hop and sample-heavy collages, Cambridge-based Dave Henson continues to evolve on the fringe of the electronic scene, applying his own unpredictable vision at will. This is an ethic that is also applied to Tripel Records, the imprint he co-founded with fellow Cambridge residents and musicians Andrew Coleman, better known as Animals On Wheels, and UM’s Peter Gregory.
For his latest project, Henson ditches the rich soundscapes of Visceral Vendor and the sample-heavy textures of Fatty Parts For A Good Match and Mutiny In Stereo for minimal techno formations in the tradition of Basic Channel or Sähkö. B.E.A.M. is split over two contrasting formats, five tracks collated on heavy vinyl and four additional pieces made available for free as digital downloads on a purpose-built Myspace page, establishing an interesting parallel between the retro futuristic appeal of UFO and exopolitics, which inform the project, and the past/future context of the formats. B.E.A.M. is darker than its clean-cut beats and grooves suggest. Behind sparse rhythmic screens hide dense, meticulously layered soundscapes of found sounds, statics and noises occasionally which coagulate into brittle melodies and repetitive motifs, adding to the impression of gravity that slowly builds over the course of the project.
Right from the opening bars of Exo On Ferrick, which proudly asserts ‘Let’s jack, that’s it, move those hips’ over dubby loops and distant clicks, Henson sets the tone. As he progressively adds substance to the beat and fills up the rest of the sonic space with reverbs, the piece gains density and abrasive vigour. The epic Semjase In Excelsis, which follows, is a much more complex and progressive affair. Developed over ten minutes, it rises somewhere between noise and music concrete to gather pace as the beat settles and additional loops are added. Although Henson relies on a considerable amount of disparate elements here, he introduces them one at a time, carefully avoiding overlaps to maintain the austere feel of the piece.
Passed the thick clicks and dub formations of Asket’s Ship, B.E.A.M. veers closer to the minimal techno it draws from, especially on Flatwoods and Sky Fishing, the two closing pieces of the LP, and on Deft Disk, the first of the thee MP3s. Here, Henson relies more strictly on radical 4/4 beats and rarefied musical forms, but the last two MP3 tracks reference more sophisticated atmospherics, returning to bleaker, more threatening, soundscapes.
With his latest incarnation, Ascoltare’s Dave Henson combines the ethic of minimal techno with his own aesthetic to create a very convincing collection of sharp electronic music. Although more preoccupied with the dance floor than on previous work, his mastery at assembling pertinent soundscapes and placing them in context confirms him as one of the most interesting and overlooked talents of the UK electronic scene.