Black Square, which follows quickly on the heels of the summer 2011 release of 141 on Svetlana Industries, finds Ben Thomas further refining and expanding upon his BNJMN voice and style. His artful touch and fine-tuned sense of control are both evident throughout this concise, thirty-three-minute collection. Fresh ideas about melody and rhythm are explored and worked-through but never so exhaustively that the listener's patience is tested or grows bored, and the ever-efficient Thomas moves from one tidy setting to the next with dispatch.
More than a one-note set of experimental techno bangers, Black Square is a varied collection that sneaks an occasional IDM vignette (“Enterlude”) and experimental sketch (“River Way”) in amongst its experimental dance tracks. Traces of Warp-styled music-making emerge on occasion, such as during “Primal Pathways,” which shimmers and radiates with a lustrous synthetic warmth while also keeping its ties to contemporary bass music intact in the dusty, percussion-heavy skip of its beat pattern. “Lava” burns with an epic, IDM-inflected intensity when synth washes flare alongside ostinatos of pulsating rhythm and chiming melody.
Ablaze with pastoral washes and a subdued, light-footed beat pattern, the title cut draws the listener into a serene orbit that's so evocative, the effect is almost synaesthetic, while the closing “Hallowed Road” eases us out with a beatless moodscape that's more ponderous than sunlit. Lest anyone think, however, that Thomas is considering recasting his BNJMN project as something more lounge-styled or ambient, the bass-heavy future-house swinger “Open the Floodgates” reminds us that there's a heavy club dimension to the persona, too. “Wisdom of Uncertainty,” a low-rider of squiggly stutters, also proves to be ear-catching, while the more expansive “Keep the Power Out” radiates with a trippy, electro-tinged fervour that makes it as artful as it is body-moving. The relative brevity of Black Square gives it a bit of a work-in-progress feel, as if Thomas is working out his music's development for all to hear rather than in the secluded confines of his studio. Having said that, there's certainly nothing unpolished about the release's nine tracks.