Ben Lukas Boysen: Gravity
Ad Noiseam

Gravity is hardly the kind of release one expects from the man behind the Hecq persona, but that's precisely why Ben Lukas Boysen chose to release it under his birth name rather than the one he's used for his many Hymen and Ad Noiseam releases. In place of the bold, high-intensity electronic sound associated with his well-known moniker, Gravity instead presents forty-two minutes of deeply felt and oft-gentle piano-based settings. It might just be the most beautifully solemn, even sad studio album that Ad Noiseam's released to date (that it was mastered by Nils Frahm offers another hint as to its delicate character).

The album's character is established immediately when a sparse stream of gently struck chords conjures a wistful and melancholic mood in “Only in the Dark,” the listener wholly drawn into its meditative zone before “Nocturne 1” appears without interruption, its quietude quickly broken by the slow, cymbals-laden drum pattern Achim Farber contributes to the ponderous piece. “To The Hills” distances itself from its predecessors by devoting its opening minutes to evocative ambient-drone atmospherics within which strings, synthesizers, and field recordings can be heard before bringing the piano into view halfway through its eight-minute running time. Once it appears, however, the character of the opening pieces reasserts itself, and the ruminative tone returns, if augmented this time by additional sounds (the closer “The Behinian Gospel” also focuses on glacial ambient-drone soundscaping).

Boysen's technical command of the piano is clearly captured in the classical style of “You'll Miss Us One Day,” especially when its impressionistic qualities are strengthened by the inclusion of lilting arpeggios and use of sustain, and a heartbreakingly lovely melodic progression imbues the title piece with an emotional gravitas whose spell is temporarily broken by a louder sequence that occurs midsong. Truth be told, it's the softer moments that speak loudest on the album, moments such as those that occur during the stirring “Eos” when Boysen separates hymnal chords with generous pauses. Gravity isn't necessarily a more personal Boysen work compared to his Hecq releases; it does feel, however, like a more nakedly revealing one, especially when the piano playing is executed with such sensitivity. Stripping his music down to its essence can't help but strike the listener as an act of self-disclosure, and what a wonderfully satisfying revealing it is.

August-September 2013