FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Ben Lukas Boysen

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…so in many ways Mirage is about seeing these roots from a distance, seeing how both my younger and older self tackle the same ideas with all these years in between.”

—Ben Lukas Boysen

Ben Lukas Boysen - press photo 01 by Patricia Haas_landscape_WEB

The prestigious German composer and producer Ben Lukas Boysen’s latest sonic marvel, ‘Mirage’ – released last week on the ever dependable Erased Tapes label – continues his impressive path to create shape-shifting sound worlds that masterfully inhabit modern-classical, ambient and electronic orbits, all at once. His innate ability to blur the boundaries of organic and synthetic elements remains a vital cornerstone of the artist’s compelling sonic oeuvre. In truth, the source of the sonic details may prove impossible to determine but therein reveals the infinite radiance of music’s power. As a listener, we (subconsciously at the very least) analyze and dissect each moment-within-moment that is magnificently captured in the ceaseless flow of consciousness (translated into sound).

Album opener ‘Empyrean’ begins with gradual pulses of reflective saxophone tones before warm electronic textures seeps into the mix. This glorious piece almost feels as if it converges on the axis between (label-mates) Nils Frahm’s ‘All Melody’ and Daniel Thorne’s ‘Lines Of Sight’ such is its immaculate brilliance and hypnotic quality.

Contrasts and counterpoints are beautifully placed on the record. ‘Kenotaph’s fragile beauty of sparse piano notes provides an absorbing, introspective moment. Later, drums and synthesizers coalesce together, forming post-rock bliss conjuring the sound of ‘TNT’ era Tortoise. The lyrical quality of Boysen’s solo work is always a pure joy to savor.

The intensity is increased on the magnificent tour-de-force ‘Medela’ with soaring electronic beats and ripples that ascend deeply into the slipstream. This morphs beautifully into the ambient bliss of ‘Venia’ (with distinctive saxophone flourishes of Daniel Thorne) which effectively marries acoustic and electronic spheres into one otherworldly dimension.

The penultimate track ‘Clarion’ serves the climax to ‘Mirage’s luminous journey. Live drums and Anne Muller’s radiant cello lines combine with the angelic tones of felt piano keys. The closing ‘Love’ transmits euphoric swirls of synth-laden tapestries infused with vocals that convey the boundless nature of ‘Mirage’s colossal musical expedition.

‘Mirage’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://benlukasboysen.bandcamp.com/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

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Interview with Ben Lukas Boysen.

 

Congratulations on your latest solo full length ‘Mirage’. I feel the spirit of adventure and fascination with sound can be felt throughout every moment of this special record. Can you please take me back to your starting point, if you will, and how you set about creating ‘Mirage’? In terms of having a back catalogue of work behind you, I can imagine you found a specific narrative for this newest venture quite quickly?

Ben Lukas Boysen: Thanks so much! It was actually a rather long process at first. I collected a lot of ideas after wrapping up a series and a film in 2018 and early 2019 and was struggling a bit with bringing these ideas to life. I was looking for ways to get to the next logical step after Spells a bit too hard at that time and ended up going in circles. Remembering my musical roots, which are clearly in electronic music and mutated forms of it, really helped spark the songs that ended up on the album. 10-15 years after making the first album(s) you are a different person and approach these questions differently, so in many ways Mirage is about seeing these roots from a distance, seeing how both my younger and older self tackle the same ideas with all these years in between.

While writing my earlier records, I had the great benefit of not knowing a lot about music production and how opinionated and political it can be. While many of these opinions and politics were extremely welcome and helpful here and there, back then it allowed me to be very free and not being afraid of doing anything wrong. Not being afraid of technical or stylistic trends or wisdoms but actually trying to do what I feel like doing, which was very liberating and sounds like common sense but it can be surprisingly difficult sometimes. In other words: I’m not totally sure there is a narrative, other than it being an attempt in reconnecting with my former or younger self and building a connection between these two different timelines.

As you have said previously, ‘Mirage’ is almost like ‘Spells’ in reverse; with your aim of trying to hide the human. Like all great composers, the ability to blur the boundaries wherein the exact origin of certain sonic ideas or motifs are unknown (or at least indistinguishable from its original form). This is utterly fascinating for the listener. Can you shed some light on the music-making process and which stage in the process do you find the most relishing?

BLB: Hiding at least some of the human element is a natural side effect of writing electronic music to me. Making it distant, otherworldly and somewhat intangible can give it a wonderfully different dimension and makes it perceivable in a different way.

As much as I enjoy the acoustic and vintage feel of many current recordings, I had the feeling that I don’t have a lot to contribute to this particular direction – at least not enough to fill a whole album with – and the idea of focusing more on the digital and architectural nature of the album became very appealing.

While the construction of the instrumental and human feel played a huge part on Gravity and Spells, the synthetic sounds are the high ranking authority on Mirage. Wherever they lent themselves to be used more ostensibly, I would let them and also feature them but i never wanted the album to feel ‘live’ in the true sense of the word, but much more ‘alive’. The tracks should seem somewhat distant and constructed, engineered even while at the same time give of a romantic and emotional feel. As if a heartfelt message is conveyed by messengers who are trying to make sense of what they are saying. The most relishing part was when i felt this tension was happening as most songs started off as either noisey patterns/drones or simple melodies and needed more composition to be interesting.

‘Empyrean’ is an interesting example as it show’s this process and described the image quite well. All elements are in and out of order at the same time for the first half of the piece. They are rhythmically pretty unsynced, and the chord changes are the only thing that aligns them. Just when things start to groove in, the original melody does not develop further and only towards the end, when the grooves start to pass, a melodic development comes back, introducing a variation of the original theme. It’s not perfectly clear which instruments/elements are in this piece, neither what exactly it is they do and what seems like a recipe for chaos actually still turns out to be a rather harmonious and emotional few minutes.

Some label-mates further heighten the sound worlds across ‘Mirage’, most notably the distinctive voices of Daniel Thorne and Anne Müller. I am curious to know at which point in these tracks did you arrive at before these musicians added their unique musicianship?

BLB: This depends strongly on the track and also has to do with me thinking of a track as a highly organic, shapeshifting thing where influences from every side will change its character dramatically. That’s something I welcome strongly and try to let happen as much as possible.

‘Medela’ sounded very different in the beginning, at the point that i sent it to Dan.

I had written a saxophone line, which he recorded and sent back, but i felt that the actual recordings – as opposed to the midi files i sent him – changed the track for the better. I noticed that the track had turned into something much more interesting than what i had in mind originally so i overhauled most of the idea to end up what is now the final track.

A wonderful first collaboration and surely not the last!

Anne and I have been working on quite a few things before, from commercials to live concerts and albums. Her feeling on how and when to chime in on the state of a piece is incredibly sensitive and on point and i always feel the music gained is a very special and irreplaceable touch. Sometimes it’s subtle additions, where the Cello becomes more of a textural element (like on ‘Clarion’ or ‘Venia’), sometimes it’s very obvious sections (like in ‘Medela’ or ‘Love’) but all of them come from a point of giving over a big portion of control to the musician (in both Anne’s and Dan’s case) to see how they shape this organism that is a piece of music.

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The opener ‘Empyrean’ is such a gorgeous and fitting opener. Daniel Thorne’s mesmerizing saxophone lines permeate the clouds before electronic manipulation and treatments creates an even deeper experience. Can you recount your memories of witnessing ‘Empyrean’s development and mutation, so to speak?

BLB: I had to think about this a little as Dan is not in this song but it probably means that the goal to confuse people about who worked on this record worked. It is however another, very dear collaborator of mine, Lisa Morgenstern. She provided a few recordings while I was trying to figure out the tone of the album.

There was a day when I loaded one of these recordings into a granular synth and started playing some simple chords. The result of this is actually what you hear in the first seconds of the track.

The wonderful unsynchronized triggering of the vocals inspired me to treat all other elements on there in a similar way. Mildly detuned or unsynced but all having a point of unison eventually.

It was the starting point for the album and set the concept for Mirage. The fact that it’s now the first song on the album is incidental because the tracklist was created much later but it’s a nice side note. The sound of ‘Empyrean’ encouraged me to step away from what i thought this album could be and focus on where I’d actually like to venture off to.

The middle section of the epic pairing of ‘Medela’ and ‘Venia’ is the album’s gripping centrepiece. The hypnotic electronic pulses of ‘Medela’ fades into the soulful bliss of ‘Venia’. I can imagine the sequencing of these tracks is something that takes quite some time to get right? As a whole, I get the impression that you visualize the music (contained on the final edit of an album) as one large seamless track with an array of moments? I’d love to gain an insight into your approach to getting all these details right?

BLB: On my previous albums (as HECQ) that’s exactly how it was – I wrote the pieces chronologically most of the time and when it hit the 50 or 60 minute mark I knew I had an album ready. I did not spend a lot of time thinking about sequencing albums – only on the later ones did this start to matter to me.

A certain aspect of this thinking is still influencing current albums including Mirage. To me an album is always a story, a snapshot of the time period I wrote it in. So it is a self-contained story or project but while earlier albums had a timeline, on Ben Lukas Boysen albums I can jump from chapter to chapter, look at individual events of that time and respectively can also listen to pieces on the album in random order and out of context. That’s why the exact sequencing of the tracks is not overly important to me as long as all tracks ended up being part of that story.

I think ‘Clarion’ really embodies the sublime aesthetics and intricate layers captured on the record. The addition of percussion and drums adds many new textures and love the gradual building of the piece. Were some parts recorded live? This certainly feels more like an ensemble playing here.

BLB: Yes the drums are live indeed. Achim Färber, who plays drums on all my albums, has the wonderful habit of playing or sending me random recordings or just starts improvising when we’re in the studio and that’s frankly where most of the album takes are coming from. Similar to Anne Müller, his contributions are the next natural evolution for most pieces. There are live drums, cellos and flügelhorn in ‘Clarion’ but all were recorded separately because the pieces are often not finished in my mind and recording one instrument leads to spark the idea of recording another. Not being a great instrumentalist, let alone session musician, I really prefer producing and arranging the pieces and then do the recordings, so realistically there’s never really a session where all musicians come together. I work with them separately and often remotely to get the work done.

Independent of its sound and intention, all my albums are ensemble projects though – every part, no matter if instrumental recordings by Achim (Drums), Stefan (Trumpet), Anne (Cell), Dan (saxophone) Maria (Harp) or on this special occasion also the great Neil Cowley, or the post mixing, done by Martyn Heyne at Lichtestudio or the mastering by Zino Mikorey, becomes part of the music. I do prefer to write and produce alone but it’s these people that breathe in that extra specialty and aspects that I could simply not bring to the table.

What particular albums and artists have you been heavily immersed in of late?

 BLB: All time faves i frequently rediscover:

– Nav Katze: Never Mind The Distortion

– Various Artists: 8, 8.5, 9 Remixes

– Olan Mill: Orient

– Billie Holiday: Lady In Satin

 

Current favorites:

– Daniel Ögren: Fastingen -92

– Christopher Bissonnette: The Wine Dark Sea

– Kit Sebastian: Mantra Moderne

– Bobby Krlic: Midsommar OST

‘Mirage’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://benlukasboysen.bandcamp.com/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

 

Written by admin

May 5, 2020 at 2:06 pm

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