Bnjmn: Black Square (Rush Hour)
Ben Thomas aka Bnjmn has been a busy lad in the last year or so. He released 2 EPs and not one but two full-length albums in the same year. Black Square is the most recent album he made for Rush Hour, following the Plastic World for Rush Hour’s Direct Current imprint. I haven’t heard Plastic World, but I did pick up his 141 EP on Svetlana as a taster before the release of Black Square. Black Square is a supremely solid full-length, working well as at-home listening with plenty of dancefloor appeal baked in, too. I like that his music seems to touch on both current dance music trends but also feels stately and reverent, with a timeless quality that I tend to associate with vintage dance music on early Warp releases. The clean, reverbed pads of “Primal Pathways” feels like prime Artificial Intelligence Speedy J or Black Dog to me, but its fast tempo feels current. Likewise, the melodic sensibility of “Wisdom of Uncertainty” feels classic, but its looping vocal bits and samples recall the looping euphoria of his contemporary The Field. Lest that comparison to The Field seem too impulsive, check out “Keep the Power Out” and its spot-on techno pulse, with insistent, looping samples, or the Pop Ambient groove of the title track. It’s certainly the most Kompakt-esque thing I’ve heard from Rush Hour, and I have to say that I really dig it. “Open The Floodgates” could pass as prime B12 in the best possible way, while elsewhere he’s content to drop the beat completely and let his floating pads do all the work. Perhaps it’s this nostalgia for the dance music days of yore, something that is a constant more now than ever, that has me in love with this album — he’s really nailed it, balancing aesthetics of Warp’s glory days with the dub-tech sounds of 2011, appealing to hooks and melodic convention in clever ways that work quite well without any attachment to trends. I have a feeling this will be a classic.