by John Garratt

30 September 2014

By making an album for himself, Benjamin Wynn just might end up pleasing everyone.
cover art



(Friends of Friends)
US: 22 Jul 2014
UK: 21 Jul 2014

1979 has very little, if anything, to do with the actual music of 1979. It’s the sound of ambient electronic musician Benjamin Wynn, a.k.a. Deru, throwing himself a 35th birthday party complete with nostalgia. My understanding of how the music of 1979 relates to Wynn’s past ends there, I’m afraid (although a multi-media presentation floating around the internet gives you something nice to look at). As deeply personal as this collection is, that shouldn’t be a reason to overlook it. This is not indulgence, this is music, and some damn fine music at that. 1979 is built of little moments bound together by nebulous timbres and the softest of pulses. The album doesn’t play, it hums. Listening to it straight through is a mild form of hypnosis, which is what good ambient music is supposed to do. At nine tracks in 41:40, the silence that follows gives the listener pause: is the dream over already?

Picking a favorite feels a little foolish, akin to picking your favorite nuts and bolts rather than just admitting that you enjoy the whole car. But that’s how 1979 moves, as one. Just from the first bar you know that the whole thing’s going to be a treat. The title track, the “birth” I presume, quietly nudged the album into being with cyclical figures that mirror something from Richard D. James’s later excursions into Selected Ambient Works. It’s the kind of music that makes you thankful, not regretful, that repetition exists. Just around the corner from all of the notes that sigh against one another is the intense gurgle of “Let the Silence Float”, a track that begins in the same key as “1979”. The way Wynn grabs the sub-dominant root underneath, or whatever they call it in theory land, makes me want to pound the words “genius” or “brilliant” out of my keyboard (words I wish others would save for very special occasions). “Addictive Yearning” sounds like the death of his first pet. This is probably the first time, and hopefully not the last, I ever heard the sound of a keyboard’s heart breaking with shaking quivers and sniffles. Plus, the chords he’s chosen to play are a stone cold reminder that Fluffy is deep in the ground and never coming back. Ever again. Hard lessons.

I take issue with him naming one of the songs “Pathologically Bored” since it portrays boredom to be so gently euphoric. But I suppose boredom affects us all differently and Wynn must absorb it as a pause pregnant with purpose. And to a creatively restless, truly “The Future Never Comes”. Everything has to exist in the present if it’s going to exist at all. Talk of a “future”, when you think about it, amounts to little more than a promise. “The Future Never Comes” is the eighth track of 1979 and it’s the album’s first attempt to pick up some speed with beats that could pass for industrial under different circumstances.

But then 1979 ends just as tenderly as it began, possibly even more so. “Midnight in the Garden with Ghosts” spins a melody, but stretches it out to the point where the listener could miss it if they just had their ears opened for texture only. After the sounds of a decaying filmstrip come to an abrupt end, one of 2014’s most powerful releases in the ambient/electronic category is over and out. So here it is: proof yet again that when an artist creates something just for themselves, they usually end up making masterpieces.



Topics: deru | electronic
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