Benjamin Damage: Obsidian

Obsidian is an example of that unusual creature, the ‘artist album' rooted in dance music culture and rhythms yet arguably designed more for intellectual than bodily engagement. Perfectly tailored to the vinyl format, the fifty-six-minute collection, a high-quality affair that flatters Benjamin Damage's skills as a sound designer, composer, and club music producer, spreads a dozen tracks across four twelve-inch sides. Though Obsidian doesn't lack punch, Damage never allows his grip on the controls to loosen: everything's executed with care, and not a note feels out of place.

There's a little bit of a sci-fi character to the material, not by way of any overt reference but more in the futuristic quality evoked by the music's glossy sheen. His music doesn't sound totally separate from that of industrial Berlin techno, but it also exudes a dub-inflected warmth in its melodic presentation that's absent in colder techno forms. In fact, such aspects make Damage's music feel as connected to IDM as techno. The title track forms a brief scene-setter for the collection, underlaying as it does a soaring melodic figure with a pumping bass pulse, something “Cosmonaut” perpetuates in its own locomotive rush of throbbing kick drums, snares, and hi-hats. As muscular as the track is on groove grounds, it's not bereft melodically, as Damage weaves a syncopated theme in amongst its kinetic rhythm design.

Representative of the release, “Transmission” ornaments a dynamic, low-end chug with atmospheric textural effects and simple melodica-like accents to dazzling effect. Variations on the theme follow, with dizzying set-pieces such as “Vostok 6,” “Tetrapod,” and “Parallax View” providing similar kinds of headrush. Not everything is grounded in techno, however: it's not inconceivable that luscious, IDM-styled cuts such as “Pulse Width” and “Shimmer” could be mistaken for Plaid productions. Obsidian is the final album to be released on Modeselektor's 50weapons, but that shouldn't have a major impact on Damage's career as one expects there'll be other labels more than happy to provide an outlet for his future productions.

October 2015