Ben Vince — Assimilation (May 25, 2018)•••¦→
Location: London, UK
Album release: May 25, 2018
Record Label: WHERE TO NOW?
1. Alive & Ready (feat. Merlin Nova) 4:44
2. What I Can See (feat. Micachu) 5:12
3. Sensory Crossing (feat. Rupert Clervaux) 8:21
4. Tower Of Cells (feat. Valentina Magaletti & Cam Deas) 10:47
5. Assimilation 7:43
¦→ Mastered by Rupert Clervaux
¦→ Design by Studio Of The Immaculate Heart (SOIH)
by Andy Beta, June 4, 2018; Score: 7.6
¦→ Does any other form of music have the same existential resonance as solo saxophone? While a single musician on piano or guitar can fill up every sonic space, a saxophonist’s mission is to strike a careful balance between music and silence. Whenever they need to draw a breath, the void comes rushing in with it. There are sax players who find other ways to create the illusion of wall~to~wall sound, like Colin Stetson with his Herculean circular breathing, and the many artists who rely on electronics and loops. But beneath those embellishments, something elemental remains; the saxophone flickers like a brief flame against eternal blackness.
¦→ British saxophonist Ben Vince belongs to the latter camp, using loops to thicken his sound.
¦→ His first few solo releases took a contemplative, layered approach to free improvisation that felt close in spirit to Terry Riley’s soprano saxophone and “time~lag” accumulator experiments. Then, in May, Vince teamed with adventurous dubstep producer Joy Orbison for a 12” of agit~techno explorations that demonstrated just how well he could play with others. Assimilation is another team effort, featuring four collaborative pieces (and one solo track) that venture to the furthest reaches of experimental song, free jazz, uneasy ambience, and bristling techno. He has called his new role a “demotion from creator to vector,” but Vince’s unflashy saxophone work binds it all together into an audacious whole.
¦→ “Alive & Ready,” his collaboration with outré vocalist Merlin Nova, throws listeners in at the deep end of this unfamiliar pool. Vince opens with a mournful, echoing phrase, his vibrato resonating against Nova’s operatic cries. Amid doom~laden percussion, the tortured squeals of Vince’s sax leave an unbearable amount of empty space around each sound and Nova voices all manner of screams, gurgles, and slurps. ¦→ Spare, dramatic, and skin~prickling at once, this din brings to mind Scott Walker’s late work.
¦→ Just as adeptly as he followed the dizzying peaks and plunging valleys of Nova’s dynamic voice, he next shadows the subtler shifts in vocals from singer~songwriter and composer Mica Levi (aka Micachu). Liquid and ephemeral, “What I Can See” is a different kind of art song from “Alive & Ready,” one that — like Levi’s collaborations with Oliver Coates and Mount Kimbie — sounds as though it’s been imported from Arthur Russell’s World of Echo. Looped, echo~laden, and treated with electronic effects, Vince’s saxophone mimics both the fricative buzz of horsehair pulled across cello strings and the ethereal rumble of whale song. Levi’s Russell~like vocals are murmured yet deeply resonant. In tandem, they create an impressionistic reverie.
¦→ Vince’s saxophone playing is short on melodic phrases, to say nothing of long lines. He prefers staccato bursts and noisy jabs, delivering shifting rhythms that add texture and a steady pulse in any context. As Data Quack, his group with This Heat drummer Charles Hayward, suggests, Vince pairs well with percussionists — and that makes the second half of Assimilation all the more thrilling. On the album’s 10~minute centerpiece, “Tower of Cells,” Vince, Raime drummer Valentina Magaletti, and Death of the Rave artist Cam Deas work as a trio, making a dense, roiling cloud of toms, shaker, sax blips, and electronic spumes.
¦→ Paired with percussionist and Sian Alice Group alum Rupert Clervaux on “Sensory Crossing,” Vince maps a heady terrain. It’s reminiscent of Clervaux’s crackling duo work with experimental electronic producer Beatrice Dillon, mining a rich vein between spontaneous improvisation and programming in much the same way their 2016 release Two Changes did. Vince’s horn leaps above Clervaux’s morphing, polyrhythmic patterns, then dives back into them and becomes a pulse swimming among many others. The musicians’ kinetic interplay conjures a swirling cauldron of shrieks and thumps, where the histories of free jazz, early experimental composition, and leftfield club music all cook down together.
¦→ Only the closing title track presents Vince in solo mode. Here, his horn splinters into layers of loops and shrieks, growing in complexity. The song matches the intensity of everything that comes before it, but as it slowly fades out, Vince pares down the music to a lone high frequency that lingers in space. His synergy with others thoroughly demonstrated, Vince’s final act of assimilation is to fade back into the silence that surrounds him. — Pitchfork
¦→ London based artist Ben Vince is best known for his minimal & transcendent saxophone soundscapes. With ‘Assimilation’ we find Ben treading new ground with his recorded output, moving away from the limitations of solo Saxophone, instead embracing collaboration and communication to forge new paths. Whilst Vince’s Sax work still undeniably holds ‘Assimilation’ together, the new territories explored by working with an artistically diverse range of collaborators allows new life and influence to flow through Ben’s work. The album features collaborations with Micachu (Mica Levi), Rupert Clervaux, Merlin Nova, Valentina Magaletti, and Cam Deas. Ben Vince has also recently collaborated on a 12” with Joy O (forthcoming on Hessle Audio).
¦→ Ben explains ‘Assimilation’ as being a “demotion from creator to vector, being bounced off by different forces, whilst also allowing the wilder elements of my playing to flourish, which I could previously only get to as band member in other endeavours I’m involved in — Housewives (Rocket Recordings) or Data Quack (with Charles Hayward).”
¦→ ‘Assimilation’ dives right in with Vince assuming downtown skronk, perfectly complementing the commanding no~wave theatrical vocal prowess of Merlin Nova. ‘Alive & Ready’ serves as an avant~garde energy blast, launching us into orbit.
¦→ Ben’s next spatial movement glides towards ‘What I can see’, a collaboration with Mica Levi, here donning her Micachu moniker to deliver her signature downcast experimental pop dexterity across Vince’s beautifully treated sax scape. The results are a moving, considered, crafted piece which undeniably nods towards Arthur Russell’s ‘World of Echo’, encompassing that same timeless, ethereal beauty.
¦→ Mica and Ben’s moment of longing melancholy is short lived, as we’re shuffled along to ‘Sensory Crossing’, a collaboration with Rupert Clervaux in which he evidences his groundings in Jazz percussion, experimental electronics, and deep interest in ethnomusicology — further exploring and expanding on the basin navigated during his collaborative album with Beatrice Dillon ‘Studies I~XVII for Samplers and Percussion’ to create a blanket of bubbling, wired, frenzied yet fluid motorik groove. Vince’s improvisation here remains restrained throughout, conversing with Rupert’s movements rather than attempting to shadow or overshadow them, an idea which perhaps is cemented in his exclamation that “Collaboration, and also the wider idea of ‘communicating’ in general, is, for me, assimilating the other, becoming the other, at least temporarily, to forge a point of connection. When we are able to let down our barriers, let ourselves affect and be affected, we can truly communicate.”
¦→ ‘Tower of Cells’, another percussion led collaboration features drummer Valentina Magaletti (Editions Mego), and sonic explorer Cam Deas (Death of Rave). Magaletti’s immersive, hypnotic, & deep styling holds firm Deas’ synth transmissions & Vince’s wandering, brooding, layered sax drone across 10 minutes of truly refreshing alien Jazz — Think the Necks mixed by Scientist on this one.
¦→ ‘Assimilation’ rolls us out in fine style with Vince riding solo. Fluttering tonal Sax lines build and build before become interspersed with layers of fourth world styled exotic flurries. Held together by a single perpetual hypnotic bass thud ‘Assimilation’ brings to mind the similarly exotic experimental works of Muslimgauze & Jon Hassell. ¦→ This final track essentially serves as a space for some reflection, joyously winding down a journey which manages to truly make the ethereal and the intense run alongside each other in perfect harmony.