Ben Lukas Boysen delivers a vivid, tactile and immersive long-player of impressive breadth and emotional substance.
One of the unforeseen by-products of the current Covid-19 lockdown has been the slowing down of our daily rhythms and a greater appreciation of nature and smaller things we take for granted. Hand in hand with this deceleration has arisen the increasing need to attune ourselves to music of a more meditative hue; the velvety sound-world of neo-classical comes into its own here. Our present predicament seems suited to this languid cocktail of post-minimalism and ambient, an electro-acoustic sound art where modern composition comes flecked with electronica and classical tropes.
One of its leading practitioners is Ben Lukas Boysen, a Berlin-based composer who was classically trained from the age of seven and has been quietly releasing emotionally engaging sound sculpture since 2013. Mirage, his brand new recording on the venerable, London-based Erased Tapes imprint – a label renowned for ‘indie-classical’ dreamscapes – represents his most affecting statement to date. As with his previous shape-shifting releases (Gravity and Spells), this piece of work boasts the presence of a coterie of classy collaborators including composer and cellist Anne Muller and Australian saxophonist and composer Daniel Thorne.
The opening cut, Empyrean, gurgles with a Steve Reichian, arpeggiated synth before dissolving into a coiling, oceanic wash of ambient pulse worthy of Global Communication or Boards of Canada; the effect is akin to being cocooned in a childhood blanket. The two pianos – one digital, the other acoustic – on the pensive and meticulous Kenotaph conjure the graceful sound of an artist utterly lost within his work. The muffled dream-memory of Medela prowls more menacingly over the course of eight minutes, crackling with a sinister static rumble, like pillows of cloud covering an encroaching dusk.
The beautiful Venia hits a plaintive peak with its sun-bleached electronic tremors, a shimmering, soft-focus smoulder that magically manages to intimate hints of ominous queasiness as well as woozy wonder. The somnolent Clarion unspools as a glassy, Eno-esque maze of sobbing sighs, as an achingly slow-motion cello washes around the twinkling melody whilst patient piano chords transmits a restorative, enveloping and becalming reverie; you could snuggle in and live inside it.
To the uninitiated, Mirage might appear overly restrained, mid-range and perhaps even slightly generic, a stony sonic canvas which refuses to shout for the listener’s attention. Taken in context, Boysen’s subtle, unobtrusive and ineffably melodic art here is bent, twisted and spun into arresting textures; Mirage suggests an altering of approach that rewards the closer, more vigilant listening we’re learning to practise.