si-cut.db: From Tears: Beach Archive

According to info posted at the BiP_HOp site, Douglas Benford's seventh si-cut.db album aims to be a 21st-century Another Green World, leading one to wonder if there might be direct links from Benford's work to Eno's, or does From Tears: Beach Archive merely draw inspiration from the 1975 landmark? Certainly a geographical dimension is common to both, with Benford's travelogue mirrored by Eno titles like “Over Fire Island” and “In Dark Trees.” Whatever the actual relationship between them, what you won't hear is a literal conflation of the two artists' styles. But even if the relationship is ultimately tangential, that detracts little from how marvelous From Tears: Beach Archive sounds.

Benford's recording developed in unusual manner over a two-year period. Armed with a laptop, he composed material while exploring the waterways and seafronts of coastal locations around the globe (including Riga, Vancouver, Athens, Aberdeen, England), with the experience crystallizing in the album's beach theme and heard in the music's wave-like washes. Yet the trademark si.cut-db sound isn't wholly re-defined. With its loping bass-driven dub pulse and babbling haze, “Polite Society,” for example, largely hews to the established style, while the steely ripples in “Tenure” are familiar too. But if the album's tracks share signature characteristics, there's contrast also, and in subtle manner the si.cut-db sound is updated significantly. The lulling oasis “Before Beach Archive,” for instance, eschews beats altogether while “Authenticity” is upbeat dub-disco, with even a subtle syndrum ping audible within the smearing washes. Other beatless episodes include the sombre “From Tears” and “Based on the Lost Episode” where Benford juxtaposes dramatic shuddering stutters against prickly ripples.

As with his past releases, there's little by way of conventional melody, a lack that would be a weakness if an hypnotically rich sound design didn't atone for it. Consider “Come to the Moments” as a representative illustration. Over a relaxed loping groove, punctuating rattles slam accompanied by panning surges and a high-pitched quarter-note pattern while a recurring rhythm of almost subliminal cloud bursts detonates and fades in the background. In the album's longest piece, the nine-minute “Issues? Me?,” dense smears of cloudy hiss waver over an insectile base while dubby clatter pans from left to right; interestingly, the track's Doppler effect recalls Kraftwerk's Autobahn more than Another Green World. With their remarkable textural depth and steely character, the eleven pieces comprising From Tears: Beach Archive recall the equally exquisite sound quality associated with the Basic Channel and Chain Reaction imprints.

Note: The album also includes “Belonging,” a short Quicktime video that synchronizes si-cut.db's music to abstracted, blue-tinted footage of a night-time cityscape trek that ends at a club with (presumably) Benford onstage.

June 2005