Benjamin Damage – “Spectrum” EP (Arts) [February 3, 2023]

What may seem like a straightforward Benjamin Damage release is actually something that grows on you and is appreciated the more you listen. Driving hypnotic styles with heartfelt chords are featured heavily across the “Spectrum” EP on the newest Arts release.

Arts label continues to have carte blanche on choosing nothing but the best when it comes to Techno, and that’s only because they have a closely curated catalog of releases that’ve led to a deep following of Techno fans around the globe. 

Benjamin Damage has similarly built up a fine body of work, and it’s a reasonable assumption that whatever he puts out is going to be another fine example in 2023. However, there’s something different going on here. Initially, when you dive into the tracks on this “Spectrum” EP, it’s a bit complex and alienating, but once you start to understand the principles and ideas going on here, they become a testament to the sonic language Benjamin Damage uses. Once immersed in the tracks, you start hearing every aspect more deeply. 

There are definitely some unique worlds to explore within the sound design here, as evidenced in “Infinite Machine”. What really sends it home are the feelings expressed to you in the chords of “Release”. It’s one thing to just set up some chords to play with, but the way that the timing of the chord progressions come together really pulls on your heart strings in a different sort of way. And yet, this is still not Progressive House or Trance. It still walks that razor’s edge of hypnotic Techno, holding onto the ideas of arpeggiations in honest-to-goodness Techno. 

Similarly in “Skywave,” you’re greeted with intense sonics in the background elements, especially in the interesting foggy noise and feedback concepts, but that is contrasted by those familiar and haunting chord progressions that Benjamin Damage does best. They are done in such a way that the timing makes them yearn for expectation and tension throughout the track, and it’s only relieved with the technical breakdown at the end. 

Quite possibly the track that really defines the EP is “Alien Friends,” which has a blend of the complex sound design elements mixed with the rhythmic elements, seemingly in intellectual pursuits of the artist. The synths soothe the abstract and abrasive tendencies of the base layer track.

In all reality, you can most likely expect to hear nothing but the best from Arts and Benjamin Damage—it’s almost a given. What remains is how the music is conveyed, and what’s new here. The technical advancements held within the intelligent use of sound design mixed with the beautifully rich, melodic structure and timing of the synths in this “Spectrum” EP really mark this as something unique for Benjamin Damage and Techno as a whole. 

Those uninitiated into Techno might have a tough time listening past this alien wall of sound. It can be intimidating, but once you dive in and soak it all in, everything makes perfect sense. The design works in a very smooth and soothing way that’s artistic, futuristic, and an expression of inventiveness for the artist.

-Sean Ocean

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