Miniatures by Benjamin Nelson

Benjamin Nelson | Miniatures
Senufo Editions (CD)

It’s great to have the opportunity to hear the latest out on Senufo Editions, and Benjamin Nelson‘s Miniatures is all about what’s missing. Mind you, there’s plenty of surface noise, though what I hear and see on it’s ghostly coverart are a unique form of reduction through erasure. The leftover detritus in the wake of his process creates this incredibly toothy microsound that is warm, in the way a slightly dreary day may make you sleepy.

This disc is more than simple hiss and crackle, however. There’s the palpable connection to its origins which the listener will have to piece together for themselves as the experience should be distinct by different sets of ears. Recorded in Oslo and Vienna (2016-18) this doesn’t particularly reveal any specific about place, but of cool essence, as both cities possess. The hollow drone that opens up on the second track here (each are only numbered by running time) is like a gently howling wind with only faint digital glitches that are carried through. Whitenoise personified.

“Miniatures…is a collection of short electronic sound objects, situations, landscapes, or puzzles.”

Always a fan of minimal work like this, though the most successful are usually not either pure noise nor a singular run-on tone, and this is neither. Instead there are constant, ever-so nuanced additive frequency shifts, likely best conveyed through headphones. Its Gaussianity is what you may refer to as micro-industrial, a bit like feedback or a broken signal, but nothing else to make for handy references. This, as such, has more in common with Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning than with most sound-related projects that have fallen between the cracks (and observed the actual cracks in the process).

When he begins to experiment with both nebulous drone and squeaky wheel pitch is where things shift, again only marginally. It’s as though there is one track acting as surface while the other is scraping back to unlock what lies beneath. And to conclude the final piece here is a pure wash of softened white noise drone (like a waterfall, but likely a set of frequencies), and meandering through are these peculiar, animated frequencies that are like anthropomorphous voices. The ‘voices’ are extremely encoded, without any real human semblance attached. As it quivers and flutters and goes silent one might question the factors and after-effects of absence and presence much more deeply.

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