Benjamin Finger: Listen To My Nerves Hum
Listeners familiar with Frank Benjamin Finger's work with Rudi Simmons in Beneva vs. Clark Nova (with Finger as Beneva and Simmons Nova) would be forgiven for expecting that Finger's solo release Listen To My Nerves Hum might be similar in style to the wildly imaginative and eccentric music presented by the Norwegian electronica duo on its Fenêtre Records albums Sombunall (2008) and Dramadadatic (2009). Far from it: in contrast to the Beneva vs. Clark Nova releases, where a vast and eclectic range of sounds is incorporated, Listen To My Nerves Hum limits itself to the sounds of piano, tape loops, field recordings, and (wordless) vocals, the latter by Finger himself as well as, on two songs, Inga-Lill Farstad.
It's also a rather restrained affair that's rooted in piano playing above all else. That's not a bad thing, however: Finger's reverb-scented piano pieces are an endearing lot: consistently melodic, rhythmically insistent, oft-nostalgic, and exuding a time-worn air that makes them feel like decades-old recordings newly discovered and given a second life. And while Finger's no virtuoso, he's more than up to the challenge of bringing his short and sometimes melancholy ruminations to life, and some of the material is disarmingly pretty, too (e.g., “Road to Salema”).
The eleven settings are not purely piano pieces either. While the songs' arrangements are nowhere near as wild as those captured on the Beneva vs. Clark Nova albums, they're sprinkled with woozy vocal effects (a French speaker among them), string scrapes, and field recordings (twittering birds, peoples' voices), the inclusion of which gives the material an unsettling, even surrealistic quality. The piano playing in “Ano Nuevo Acid Crackers” resounds against the backdrop of a fireworks display and celebratory crowd noises, while “Sevilla On Tape” and “Ode To Blissa” augment piano with ululating chanting and martial snare drumming, respectively. Augmenting the keyboard with additional sounds proves to be a wise move as it keeps the listener engaged, never knowing what lies around the next corner.
Time Released Sound has become known for presenting its products in ultra-elaborate manner, and Listen To My Nerves Hum is no exception. It's available in CD and vinyl formats (note that the LP version, which is limited to 300 copies, includes only the first eleven of the CD's sixteen tracks). Also prepared was a deluxe limited edition that included a skeletal bird mobile assembled from parts of antique pianos and housed in a box (along with broken-up pieces of piano and hand-printed paper inserts), but the seventy copies, as of this writing, are no longer available. Even so, a striking collage illustration on the sleeve of the standard vinyl edition makes it an attractive enough option on its own terms.