Like dance music? Intelligent? Well then, you’ll love Intelligent Dance Music (IDM). One of the more condescending musical genre titles doing the rounds (along with ‘Technical Death Metal and ‘Sophisti-pop’), the tag- applied to the likes of Orbital, Aphex Twin and Nathan Fake- refers to the style of electronica opting for individual experimentation over an adherence to a particular genre… other than IDM itself of course (making it a Meta-Genre, or perhaps, in music journalism parlance, Post-Genre-Meta-Genre). Anyway, aside from my nonsense, I’d like to introduce a musician often labelled under the IDM bracket, who is so unique and abundantly talented, that to file him under any category other than ‘Benn Jordan’ would be misled.
I challenge you to correctly predict the musical tangent taken [in Jordan's track]
Operating under various aliases (The Flashbulb, Flexe, Acidwolf and…Benn Jordan), adopted in accordance with his chosen musical style for any particular record, Jordan is a musical behemoth. Playing the guitar from such a young age that he struggles to remember exactly when he first started, he developed into a prodigious jazz guitarist and drummer who fell in love with the Chicago jazz scene. Although primarily a producer of electronic music, his tracks regularly include his guitar playing (often converted into MIDI), piano and drumming. Jordan’s ability to create emotive ambience with beautiful, intersecting melodies (e.g. in Steel For Pappa) was probably what first drew me in, but his mastery of glitchy breakbeat adds a seemingly polar-opposite dimension. A great example of his ability to entwine ambience, melody and complex breakbeat, all mixed and mastered with fastidious precision, is A Raw Understaning (below) from the 2010 album Aboreal.
‘Eclectic’ is a somewhat overused term in music, but its application seems justified for Jordan’s work, his songs often flying off in the most exhilaratingly unpredictable of places. Check out The Trees In Jaurez (below), from this year’s Opus At The End Of Everything. I challenge you to correctly predict the musical tangent taken after two minutes:
A huge fan of Argentinian film composer Gustavo Santaolalla (of 28 Grams and Brokeback Mountain fame), Jordan has worked as an award-winning TV, film and ad composer, having also created trademark sounds for Dove, among others. Tomorrow Untrodden (below), the final track from Aboreal, is a beautiful example of his ability as a composer to induce wonderment of the ‘ah, isn’t life beautiful’ variety within seconds- not to build it up too much.
Creating 13 full albums in 12 years under The Flashbulb moniker alone, Jordan is a prolific music machine. This year, for instance, he has released two full albums, Opus… and the recently released Hardscrabble, with the former being perhaps the best starting point for someone looking to delve into his work; the tracks are ambitious without being disorientating and full of cracking melodies, beats and room-filling ambience (I’m trying to avoid using the term ‘soundscape’!).
Listening to Jordan in interviews and reading his blog, it’s pretty clear he is a man of conviction, and this also comes across in his uncompromising music. Struggling against various powers in the music industry, Jordan ultimately found a position of strength by creating his own record label Alphabasic. He is a vocal opposer of sites like iTunes (whom he claims has to all intents and purposes stolen his music) and in 2008, in an act of quiet defiance, personally uploaded a copy of his album Soundtrack To A Vacant Life on to Torrent sites with an attached message. Taking this ‘If you can't beat em ... join em’ approach has further endeared Jordan to his already devoted fanbase, while lubricating the process of expanding the base wider.
For fans of lovingly crafted music by talented, technically proficient artists of any kind, Benn Jordan is seriously worth checking out. It’s a crying shame that so few people are acquainted with his work, but in another way, it almost reminds me of the amazing little restaurant that only locals know about, hidden away in a dodgy neighbourhood requiring an expensive cab ride. This, then, is my Lonely Music guide to one of the biggest hidden gems of the musical underground. The Flashbulb is definitely worth the metaphorical taxi fare.
Follow Fabio on Twitter at @Fabzucci
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