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BNJMN: Plastic World

Up till now I’ve only been familiar with the young UK producer Ben Thomas‘ work as Singing Statues – ethereal, electro-acoustic ambience that set blogs and magazines a-twitching (including this one) back in 2009. Although ‘pre-Singing Statues‘ might sound a little odd, given he’s 23, Thomas has operated a range of more resolutely-electronic aliases from the beginning, the most prominent of which Rush Hour have backed for this debut LP.

The much-feted Dutch house revivalists certainly constitute a fitting home, the theme here being analogue-sounding, unabashedly synth-driven dancefloor warmth. Far from being in any way reductive, though, each track evokes a range of derivations so diverse as to be wholly remarkable in one so young; the dystopic, militant pulse of Drexciya on ‘Plastic World’, the expansive CS80-style arpeggios of Vangelis on ‘Wheel in Motion’, the dense percussive maelstrom of heavier Autechre on ‘Fire In The Hole’, and the sumptuous, corruscating Phillip Glass-via-Detroit melodic cycles on standout opener ‘Blocks’.

Most importantly, each influence has been assimilated with both faithful aplomb and personal authenticity. Underpinning this rare balancing act lies a refusal to acquiesce to either the DJ’s need for functional order or the clubber’s weakness for blatant dramatic cues. Track lengths are short, intros and outros are virtually non-existent, beats are irregular, and elements are introduced and removed without fanfare. BNJMN makes predominantly live-jammed dance music, and he makes it sound easy.

This is an artist’s work that, much like Space Dimension Controller’s output last year, should restore plenty of faith in the future of dance music. Theirs is a future shaped by producers capable of resurrecting memories they should be far too young to recall, while simultaneously managing to forget the subsequent imperatives of artless technical refinement that have so obscured this music’s genesis. That sounds like a future we may all look forward to.