Third release from Ambient musician Benjamin Finger, upcoming on the Time Released Sound label, Listen To My Nerves Hum.
Anxiety, much like every conceivable human emotion, is one that has featured at some point or another in music. I would in fact go as far to say that anxiety is one of the more prevalent emotions covered in music, especially within ambient. That feeling of constriction and tension is one that is highly replicable and almost perfectly suited to the quiet, minimal and easily menacing atmospheres that ambient is able to summon. Listen To My Nerves Hum hints in its title that this is a concept it wants to toy with, and it doesnt disappoint, although the outcome is perhaps not what you’d expect.
The piano forms the cornerstone of this release, underpinning every track with its lightweight, distal tinkling, spinning out these minimal, repetitive melodies which are subsequently supplemented by a wide variety of what are quite everyday and innocuous sounds that one might not necessarily expect from an album that is trying to instill a sense of nervousness. That being said, Listen does it in a more human and more subtle way that I expected. This is an album of movement, of motion, the leaving behind of friends and family to explore new and farflung places, this is clear through the track titles; “Birthslides”, the opener, is the initiation of the tension and the start of the journey, with its ironic marching drums making way for the quiet “Leaving Linjevegen” as we move from Oslo into France and “Das Paris des Second Empire Benjamin” (with its emotionless French announcers, as though arriving at a train station or airport). It is followed by “Road To Salema” as we cross the Pyrenees into the dry, baked lands of Spain and Portugal at last. These are the musical sketches that chart the path of a man moving from his home in the cold Northern climes of Norway to the warmer shores of the Med, a journey filled with moments of indecision and angst.
The problem I have with his album is that it is intensely personal, so much so that it almost feels like it is an intrusion into Finger’s mind and deepest personal thoughts. There is a distinct feeling of homeliness on a number of the tracks, and it feels like we the listener pass through like ghosts or some other alienated 3rd person entity and gain a minimal insight into its inner workings, like on the track “Bogatynia In Mother” where you can hear the chirps of birdsong floating through the open windows and doors creaking in the breeze, or in “Sevilla On Tape” where we hear a child’s screams and shouts and other homely sounds before it segues into a considerably darker piece with heavier piano and melancholic, male sung vocals. “Ano Nuevo Acid Crackers” also has this sensation but in a different way, with less of a sense of “home through the looking glass” and more of sharing Finger’s more pleasant and entertaining life moments as New Year’s is ushered in to the crackles and whizzes of fireworks and the happy conversation of onlookers. It is a brief interlude of elation in a darker world.
I suppose in many ways, Finger achieved what he wanted with this release and made me uncomfortable listening to his album, but possibly not for the reasons I think he intended. The music itself is supposed to set you on edge, remind you of the difficulties you personally face and the hardships of life but the fact that Finger does it by so openly allowing us into his is…unnerving. As it stands, I’m not too upset about the actual content (although I was somewhat unimpressed by the simplicity and the rather tiring nature of the repetitive pianos) but rather the intrusion into his personal life as heard through his home recordings. The catharsis is tangible here, and every track seems to lighten the air just another notch as the load and strain upon him is released but it almost feels like it isnt a dissolution of the original problems and more of a transplantation, from him to us.
And I dont like that.