Ben Swire: From Here To There

Though From Here To There is the debut album from Ben Swire, the San Francisco-based musician (and photographer) shows himself to be a deft hand at crafting melodically sophisticated electroacoustic set-pieces on the thirty-nine-minute recording. Swire, whose music has clearly benefited from an extensive background in music composition and sound engineering, weaves electronic elements, field recordings, and conventional instruments (guitar, bass, percussion) into fluid, meticulously arranged set-pieces that retain an experimental edge without losing sight of musicality and melodicism. The ordering of elements in the opener, “Propel,” for example, is handled masterfully. An ascending four-note guitar theme quietly resounds against a gently propulsive rhythm bed, as additional guitar and electronic colours punctuate the spaces in between the recurring guitar motif. And not a note is out of place during a brooding setting such as “Far Removed,” for instance, whether it be a piano, percussive instrument, acoustic guitar, electronic starburst, or field recording.

The album benefits from guests' contributions too. Aaron Keane's double bass playing acts as a perfect foil for the percussive creaks and clops that stream through “Passing Through,” and the track receives a late-inning injection of energy when Daniel Swire's drumming moves into the spotlight. Spurred on by a minimal techno pulse and acoustic guitar strums, the languorous dreamscape “And There” receives a noticeable boost when Keane's solo takes the lead. Swire sometimes lulls the listener into a hypnotic state of relaxation before jarring him/her back to full awareness with a sudden eruption of sound (e.g., “Passing Through,” “Far Removed”), and he even moves into dub territory when a pulsating bass line animates the seaside splendour of the closing track “That One Last Thing.” Here as elsewhere, Swire shows himself to be a cut-above as an arranger, as every musical element locks splendidly into place with precision and taste. The focus on From Here To There is clearly on composition first and foremost, with every detail considered judiciously.

December 2010