Benjamin Mason : Waste Management Volume I11 October 2019
Ben Mason's new album is experimental in its very essence; an exploration of beat, samples and found sound that in places is as far away from easy listening as it is possible to be and still have music to enjoy. You will not find Waste Management Volume 1 playing in a department store lift anywhere soon.
Waste Management's eleven, mostly instrumental, tracks have been culled from ten years of unreleased and unfinished material.
If you came to this LP from Mason's successful compilation of covers of his compositions by associates, I Asked My Friends to Cover my Songs and This is What They Came Up With, you are in for something of a shock.
Likewise, familiarity with one of his winsome acoustic compositions, such as Magnet (from 2018’s Oi! Rapscallion!), wouldn’t give you much of a footing; but there is still evidence of his errant genius at work here.
The first piece proper of the set, Horsebite, is a fitting gateway to Mason’s otherworld; a funky drumbeat finds its groove around a looping Chloe Laing vocal, an accordion slips in and out of the mix - the result is as odd as it is infectious and entertaining.
Then, a repeating cascade of harp notes interweaves with beats, electronica and a simple guitar riff to generate the dislocated summer feel of Mermalade.
By this point you will have switched off, or be entranced.
If it is the latter, then Mason's full collection of out-takes offers further mesmerising quirkzotic glee - including fragments of birdsong, a hint of dub, a memorable run of tense, highly strung guitar, improbably dissonant layers of sound that completely absorb despite themselves and a rather lovely, spaced-out four minute drift of keyboard and beats, Gnosis, that is a reified melodic dreamscape worth the price of the your attention alone.
As the album progresses it becomes more discordant but still holds fascination. The static charged nightmare of Toads in Brine might be too much for most ears - a distressed, rabid electronic descendant of Pink Floyd’s Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict - but it is an untamed digital coda at the very end of the set.
Waste Management Volume 1 is hypnotic, challenging and compulsive in precisely equal measure.
Waste Management Volume 1 is available from Bandcamp