Frank Benkho’s second release on clang continues his investigation into the possibilities of improvisation with analog instruments, effect pedals and voice. In terms of sound, A Trip To The Space [Between] continues where The Revelation According to Frank Benkho ended, but displays many new features when it comes to the development of themes and musical material in general. Abrupt changes, dark twists and freely disposed developments are set on an experimental, electronic backdrop that retains aspects of an ambient minimalism that captivates with its delicate transformations of space and time. The instruments breathe, whisper and shout, converse amiably and clash viciously while voices of unknown origin transmit indecipherable messages.
The title and the tracks’ names resemble at first sight a sort of journey in the solar system and its surroundings, but at closer examination and attentive listening reveal to us that it in fact concerns an internal mind-journey. The spaces we experience are those that we as humans create between us can be just as vast, void and insurmountable as the distance that separate us from the center of the universe.
While the speakers become silent, we humans fall inescapably into our own extinction…
Compositions and mix: Improvised, recorded and mixed by Frank Benkho between March 2015 and January 2016 in Estudios Pueblo Nuevo, Santiago, Chile.
Instruments: Voices, TC Helicon Voice 2, Serge Modular, Korg MS-10, Moog Minitaur, Trogotronic TR-Ogre, Doepfer Dark Time, Cacophonetor II, 4MS panneur, OTO Machine Biscuit, Pigtronix Echolution delay, Maestro Echoplex EP-3 tape delay, Electro Harmonix Cathedral reverb, Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress flanger, Lovetone Wobulator, Casiotone MT-65.
Mastering: Lars Graugaard, Santiago, Chile
Artwork: Mika Martini
Mr. Benkho appeared in this section for the first time past in January when we reviewed The Revelation According To Frank Benkho. Back then we were quite excited but we have to admit that the record only rarely left the record collection. A Trip To The Space [Between] is in our opinion a much better work. It still makes use of analogue modular synths to generate the sounds, but now bathed in a quirky atmosphere that gives the title.
Regarding the first three songs we can be brief. They are well done and in addition Frank keeps his promise: we go space travelling! If your are into late 80s sounds such a PCM/MIDI keyboard EFX was skimming you heard about just the same as on this album: Psjiiiw, zjoooew, pjieuw pjieuw pjieuw. In short, all the sounds of the alleged on-board computer. But Frank’s EFX is of a very high quality and he creates soundscapes that have indeed something to say. Several times we come to think of the sublime spheres of the cult band Delerium. Deep Love Beneath Earth is such feat in the first part: beautiful sequences, nice melody and a fine construction. But humor is not absent and Jogging On Venus we find even downright funny. Although it may of course be due to us.
However, it is the last three tracks that really catch our attention. The Space Between Us is a hell of a track and gives immediately reason to use the label industrial for the release. Featuring a lead intro and quick percussive tapping, it reminds us of the very best works of Frames A Second or Axiome. The atmosphere is dark and menacing. This is a track that would fit perfectly in a collectors’ label such as Hymen (Ant-Zen) or Ad Noiseam – and, moreover, would steal the show. Top stuff! The blackened earth, noisy soundscape No Money, No Planet is a perfect follow-up. The track is brimming with disturbing vocal samples that float on interesting polyrhythmic patterns. Call it dark ambient with a twist. The Brightest Object On The Night Sky feels like a hopeful end, even though it continues the oppressive atmosphere. Handsome chords at the end appear full of sadness.
This is not a perfect release, but it is certainly a crucial one. It’s your choice, but we think this is definitely recommended.
THE AUDIOPHILE MAN
You can tell that Benkho was excited to produce and release this album because he forgot to include the spaces between the words in titles such as
Escape To Planet Mars and Deep Love Beneath Earth. Then again, maybe this is the space mentioned in the album’s title? If so, it’s a hell of a squeeze. It’s also a hell of an assault because, right from the off, Benkho comes at you with no mercy. You are going to experience this and, my god, you are going to experience it big. Discordant rhythms, industrial melodies that start nowhere and go nowhere and are nowhere, high pitched tones that verge of the distortive, bubbling synth runs that drip in reverb and slow motion re-runs, ambient foundations of an analogue variety, chaotic arrangements. And that’s just the first track.
Once Benkho has your attention and he’s sure that you’ve woken up, he hits you again. This time, however, there’s a distinctly krautrock bass synth rhythm here that Tangerine Dream fans will, no doubt, raise an eyebrow to. This is a marvellously retro piece that scream the 70s at you and wallows in it like a hippo in mud. Slowly developing with spatial sounds that build and evolve then twist and morph into new and flying structures, it si s true contrast from the first track as it dwells and explores a single theme, seeing where it goes and musing upon its own possibilities.
The third track, Jogging On Venus, begins with electric discharges caked with reverb and develops in a mechanical nature from there but also sounds like music that you might find in an adventurous art installation. There’s a lot going on here. Lots of knob twiddling, lots of tonal swishing and swooshing that sounds almost cleansing in its soil approach.
And so it goes, each track providing a new chapter for the mid to dwell upon. It’s intellectually ambient at its core and krautrock in its personality with modern electronica that underscores its ambition. Formidable stuff.
After The Revelation According To Frank Benkho Mika Martini, member of the Chilean Electroacoustic Community (Cech), now publishes another album on the Danish label Clang. On A Trip To The Space (Between) the architect and designer Martini diligently and assiduously releases his alter ego Frank Benkho once more on Korg MS-10 and on a variety of other sound sources. What apparently came about as improvisations, however, has such plausible substructures that the belief in the power of the (pseudo) aleatoric, in the best sense, results heavily damaged.
And a spontaneous mood springs forward even when using imported scale-tunes, as in the closing track The Brightest Object On The Night Sky. In an unspecified degree of improvisation, Frank Benkho questions the improbability of improvisation and ultimately suspends all evidence. However, the roadmap of the publication is clear: The truth is out there somewhere.
Even if the locally anchored admittedly remains undaunted by the stated Wanderlust, it does nevertheless provide a kind visibility that suggest its inversion: The trip is in fact directed inwardly, it exposes itself and then flees from the experience as ‘A Trip To The Space (Between)’ towards an earthly existence.
No Money, No Planet: When the arcade space traveller contributes his (acoustic) mustard sauce, he discloses the discrepancy between the consciousness and all other levels of self which we so consciously seek to conceal and trivialise. Even the use of monetary resources sharpens and prepares our senses for universe’s vastness; as the screen remains black or at most intents a repeat of animated still images. Without the costly implementation of a media production, the world experience remains a naive and one-dimensional affair.
By using a surprise effect Frank Benkho accomplishes an abrupt detour that suspends that reference points which so falsely is suggested as a metaphysical subject matter. And even the most devoted dreamer cannot escape the charm of the egalitarian interpretation: It is, what it is. On top of this it refers to the moment, that, where knowledge is no more and no less than solely onto itself. Well done, gentleman.
Frank Behnko is the alias of Chilean musician and designer Mika Martini, label boss at Pueblo Nuevo. For his second album the artist is out on the Danish label Clang he manages a spacecraft that takes us on a journey in space, as suggested by the title. This trip, however, is not a quiet walk among the stars but a real race with the engines at full power, rushing between jolts and air gaps and with an ominous black hole ready to suck us in. This is essentially a kind of agitated and anxious Kosmische Musik where no-one knows if we will ever return to earth. Everyday sounds of voices and championships noises are treated with effects and pedals and the final result is very alienating and obscure – a sort of ODYSSEY NOT FOR EVERYONE.
WHISPERIN’ AND HOLLERIN’
It’s barely been five minutes – at least in cosmic time – since clang released the audaciously-titled The Revelation According to Frank Benkho, and on the evidence of this latest set, Frank’s big ideas keep on getting bigger. ‘A Trip to the Space [Between]’ may contain only six tracks, but half of them are way over six minutes in duration, and their length is equalled by their immense depth.
A Trip to the Space [Between] defies categorisation. Benkho employs a vast array of kits to create something that’s not dance, nor ambient, nor kraut-rock, but is very much electronic on its creation.The compositions are many-layered and multi-faceted, with manifold rhythms cutting across one another simultaneously. The layers build vast swathes of sound which expand in all directions, continually reconfiguring time and space in Benkho’s own terms. It’s an ambitious work, a dizzying, bewildering and at times vertiginous listening experience. A trip indeed.
To be released on April 1st, 2k16 via Clang Records is Frank Benkho’s sophomore release on the ever active imprint in which the project founder Mika Martini continues his explorations in free improvisation on analogue instruments and FX over the course of six tracks, building a science-fiction score of a kind with his vast array of machines including Cacophonetor II, Doepfer Dark Time, Lovetone Wobulator, Serge Modular and many more and taking us on a journey through our solar system and beyond. Incorporating bits of floating Space Ambient, scientific bleeps, epic athmospheres (“Deep Love Beneath Earth”), dangerously tilting machinery on repeat (“Jogging On Venus”), electric buzzes meets Clicks’n’Cuts on overload (“The Space Between Us”), dark, dystopian loops of growing intensity leading into grinding technoid slo-mo (“No Money, No Planet”) as well as lessons in dubbed out Deep Listening Music (“The Brightest Object On The Night Sky”) “A Trip To The Space (Between)” defo holds a lot to enjoy for the advanced listener of experimental electronic music and therefore can be recommended as one release to check out when put on the circuit throughout the next days.
Vivid and Almost Dangerous: A Trip To The Space [Between] (Frank Behnko)
Atmospheric experimental analogue synthesis, without the navel-gazing self-regardThis release follows on from last year’s excellent (and modestly-titled) The Revelation According To Frank Benkho, which in its own way was revelatory.
It introduced a producer skilled at atmospheric experimental analogue synthesis, making an immediate impression. With modular and analogue synths so popular at present there’s no shortage of artists releasing work fixed almost anally on such equipment and the results are not always convincing. They can be inward-looking, self-referential, overly technical. Benkho’s music displays none of these faults and is clearly informed by real creative talent.
His background isn’t that of the stereotypical analogue nerd. He studied design and architecture and is a member of the Chilean Electroacoustic Community (CECh). Perhaps Chile is far enough removed from fleeting fashions and geographically remote enough to act as a productive breeding ground for a distinctive mode of electronic music.
The album’s knowingly ‘spacey’ titles seem to allude to the golden age of cosmic synthesiser music and some of the sounds have a similar ‘dawn of time’ feeling, but without falling into cosmic clichés. The sounds are produced using a fully-documented list of analogue equipment plus voice and effects. While there’s improvisation behind some of the sequences the music generally avoids the trap of sounding self-consciously ‘improv’.
With its playfully retro scif-fi video, the opening ‘Escape To Planet Mars’ is a great scene-setter. The dramatic opening chords are reminiscent of the Mexican producer Murcof and are succeeded by a growing, mutating mass of alien processes and bleeps.
‘Deep Love Beneath Earth’ opens with a possibly ironic filtered vocal that soon gives way to intense, cosmic deep-space arpeggios that create a timeless sense of movement in the vein of the 1970s Berlin School. In the final section these give way to more tranquil chords and drones that seem to convey a sense of arrival.
Despite its slightly comical title, ‘Jogging On Venus’ is a very serious track and one of the highlights of the album. It’s a dense sound-field littered with pulsing radioactive debris and cosmic wow and flutter. As the sounds intensify further a deeper alarm pulse intrudes, giving a sense of Benkho’s machines working at full intensity. Things begin to malfunction in the mid-section that leads to a superb final sequence that establishes Benkho as a worthy heir to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
‘The Space Between Us’ is a more dynamic and relatively aggressive piece, with fast sequences augmented by morse-like patterns and corroded sequences that sound like distorted data transmissions. This is no cosy, nostalgic take on the analogue sound but a vivid and almost dangerous blast of sound.
What seems like smeared vocals resurface in the murky depths of ‘No Money, No Planet’, the least linear and most overtly experimental track, which sounds constantly on the brink of disintegration – a rickety assemblage held together only by space winds and pulses.
‘The Brightest Object On The Night Sky’ is a slow, anthemic coda, marked out by analogue pulses and ever-present but never- clichéd cosmic winds animating slow-moving clouds of analogue debris. In the final section the main bass pulse winds down briefly giving way to ephemeral chords that again evoke the romantic lost era of Tangerine Dream et al.