I have stayed mum on this album for far too long. In actuality, Ben Benjamin, aka Ben Mullins (one-third of the under-appreciated Midwest Product [LAS feature]), sent me a copy as soon as he possibly could in hopes that someone would open their ears to what he has been doing for years. Due to some tragic circumstances, The Many Moods of Ben Benjamin Vol. 1 slipped to the back pages of my mind and only recently did I finally come to my senses.
Anyone familiar with Mullins’ previous works with Midwest Product or fellow Ghostly artists Post Prior are no doubt familiar with the way in which he tinkers and crafts simple melodies from half-synthesized noise and half-organic instrumentation. Mullins builds songs centered upon short, pop-tinged hooks, surrounding them with a myriad of electronic blings & bleeps, filtered guitar scavenges, rhythmic accentuations, and assorted background supplements. The resulting amalgamation is something partly dance-y, partly indie-fied, and that in large part nods its weird flavor toward the clean, chic stylistics of the 1980s.
As sweet as it sounds, don’t check for cavities just yet. There is more to what Mullins does than simply crafting gooey hooks and layering catchy drum patterns on top of one another (although those are perfectly effective guises for any music to take form in). With Many Moods he also mines a lot of atmospherics. Mullins’ explorations occasionally find four-minute tracks sauntering into the shadows of the indie/electronic palette to a great effect, and Ben Benjamin isn’t afraid to remain there and see what the pop twilight brings. A perfect example is the upbeat “Butane Wayne,” in which panning Morse-coded synth notes are spelled by icy sixteenth notes on the ride and a deadened syncopated bass drum pattern. Eventually the song finds a groove with some snare hits and additional spacey, sonic textures to supplement a plucked-string melody.
Such off-kilter creations as Many Moods often go unheralded, but in the case of Ben Benjamin that would be exceptionally unfortunate. Hybrid instrumental electro-indie grooves like “Sassy Blanche,” “Hypertexan,” and “VIP LCD” are subtle/clean head-nodders, songs that could easily find their way into a Volkswagen commercial someday (ala Vashti Bunyan [LAS feature]) and prompt futurekids to wonder, “Damn, who is that?,” and walk away from their photonic viewtubes whistling the catchiest 5-second hook they’d heard in months. Audio historians would wonder if it could be… Pharrell? Timbaland? LCD Soundsystem? But no, they’d all be wrong, as these cuts are the work of a soundmaker of a different breed? It’s Ben Benjamin, folks.