Listening to: Ben Lukas Boysen

SpellsA few words about a recent discovery of mine- German composer and sound designer Ben Lukas Boysen, whose two albums Gravity and Spells have been on repeat play over the last few weeks, a somewhat fragile and moody soundtrack to my lengthier-than-usual commutes to and from work. I’m not sure exactly what I’d call it- classical ambient, maybe? Its hard to define. Basically he merges programmed piano pieces with delicately-structured soundscapes of real musical instruments and textures of electronic sound to create wonderfully evocative, rather dark and sombre pieces.  Full of echoes, delays and other manipulations of the music/sounds, yes, it is ambient but it also feels rather more than that. What I’m getting at is, if it is indeed ambient, then it is superior ambient (‘ambient’ is a musical genre that gets somewhat abused these days post-chillout etc and its easy to become tired of it and feel its all getting rather redundant, actually good ambient being quite a rarity).

The funny thing is, I couldn’t possibly tell you where I spotted this music or how Boysen came to my attention, it just seemed to fall into my lap whilst surfing the ‘net. Likely its from a recommendation on Amazon, having purchased Johann Johannsson music in the past, as in tone and mood it certainly has some kind of kinship. Maybe it’s just the magic of the internet- I’m always finding stuff like this by accident, lovely discoveries that might otherwise pass me by. In a way, they already have- Spells dates from 2016 and Gravity originally from 2013. Boysen has plenty of other works available, soundtracks etc, that he has created over the past several years, and I expect it will be interesting exploring much of it over the next few months. I love these musical journeys into something new.

gravityOne thing I will just add; the best place to order these two albums from (either on download or the old-fashioned physical cd that I prefer) is from the website of his label, erased tapes. where you’ll get some additional bonus tracks as well as downloads in FLAC etc as opposed to vanilla mp3. Its also a nice place to listen to samples etc. if you’re just curious. I’m certain that anyone who loves the music of Johann Johannsson (still can’t believe he’s gone) or ambient in general will find much to enjoy in Boysen’s music, particularly in these two albums.

Max Richter – ‘Sleep’

sleep1This is a pretty extraordinary release- Max Richter’s opus ‘Sleep’ is over eight hours long, and in this full version arrives in a box with 8 cds and a Blu-ray that will play the whole thing uninterrupted. Pretty much designed as an aid for listeners to sleep, its also something of an experiment to see how that sleep can be improved and affected by the sleeper subliminally listening to the music through the night (hence its eight-hour running time). Its 31 pieces are variations of several themes, the structure designed after Richter consulted neuroscientist David Eagleman. Its generally ambient chamber music augmented by synthesiser.

How it works at improving sleep quality or affecting dreams I cannot say, as I haven’t bothered to try that out- I think my wife thinks I’m strange enough as it is (and I doubt it would work any magic on our Westie, Eddie, but you never know). Instead I’ve listened to the music as background music while driving to work or working at home on this blog, or when reading.  If ‘listened to’ really means anything with such ambient music -to be fair though, there is some argument that this music really works beyond any sleep experiment. With its soothing tones and melodies working a calming magic in the background, it creates a valid soundscape for daylight hours too. The sheer madness/eccentricity/bravery (delete as you seem fit) of creating and releasing something as huge as this eight-hour sleep cycle is quite impressive though, regardless of what you think of the music. It must be the music equivalent of the Ultimate Cut of Watchmen– clearly OTT and insanely self-indulgent but nice to experience all the same.

(Richter has also released a single-disc version ‘From Sleep’ for less ambitious listeners).