Track By Track : Ben Sun – Strange Roads At Night
Some musicians deserve more acclaim than they have perhaps been praised with, Ben Sun is almost certainly one. The producer has released a spectacular assortment of music on the likes of Delusions of Grandeur, Love Fever, Utopia and Voyeurhythm. It is the latter on which he is about to release his debut LP. Titled "Strange Roads At Night" the release is an excellent assortment of rough and ready skits, charming house tinged with the elegance of soul, funk and disco from a previous era. It truly is an expertly worked piece of music which benefits from the full length treatment. So often dance albums lose their sense of purpose and weight, this is a wholesome work worth savouring.
We invited him to take us through the record track by track… See below:
A1: THE REGIME
The scene is set here, something like the chorus chanting at the start of an old play. A group sit in a smoky bar and discuss the injustice of state affairs.
In putting this record together I wanted to offer a glimpse into a place in time, with real feeling and atmosphere. Hence this opening vignette. There’s a small piece I wrote on the back cover of the record that talks about the surprising potency of everyday experiences and emotions, even in a life that is otherwise devastated. That’s what this record came to be about – personal identity and friendship, versus the heavy shit you just can’t escape.
A2: WORK AGAIN
For me it’s a morning song, sun pouring into the room… I was diving into the lushness of the piano and vocal, trying to make it swirl around, and open up gently until all its detail was revealed. Like how sometimes it takes your ears a moment to acclimatise when you first wake up.
I set it against the acid sound of the bass, which is not so threatening rolling around a major scale, but has a lot of bite and is more energetic. I used a Korg SQ1 to sequence the bass, which is typically used to make techno. So I thought it might be fun to use it on a slow jam.
The beat I didn’t want to drop until the end, I liked it naked for the most part.
A3: SALTY TEARS
It’s really nice when a track just falls out of an afternoon, but this one came at it’s own slow-ass pace. I tried it dozens of ways, re-working the bass and piano parts, different beats and percussion. The vocal cuts were the last thing I recorded, and finally it felt right.
I guess I had been trying to give it the weight of genuine disco tune, hard to place in a definite era – and something that would feel really uplifting and kind of exciting in a club. Something you could let go with.
Sonically I think it really shows the sound of the MPC-60… kinda fuzzy but punchy and thick. All the percussion sounds were individual hits sampled off vinyl… which is totally the long way around when it comes to putting a beat together! But might be worth it for that overall sound.
A4: YOUR CAMERA!
Just another atmosphere to wander through here. Ever wondered if the images you take could be used against you, or against others? Hard to see how until it’s too late.
I probably would have liked to extend the groove longer but space is at a premium on the wax. Short but sweet; I tried to follow the tradition of Pete Rock, master beat maker.
People can think of inspiration as this idealised thing that appears before you when the time is right, but often it’s something negative – or at least appearing empty and dark…
To face bleakness you have to find joy in something you can reach (like music or art in any form) – a stoic contentment amidst the cold realities.
This song came from trying to work myself out of a depressive state on a bleak day… the dark bass line was a release, the chords to soothe… eventually a nice warm kick to shake the cobwebs off… Felt like a nice moody end to the side.
B1: SIN CASA
Desire – for another’s love, for freedom – it’s a complex and contradictory thing.
When I recorded this one I was listening to the RAH band and playing around with the DX7 a lot. I wanted the bass to be big and roomy under the pads and guitar sounds. A spacious boogie shuffle with a bit of unrequited romance.
The synths were mostly recorded live all at once… playing backline elements that begin to loop, and then improvising over the top. I didn’t have the separate parts to tinker with the arrangement (as I might have liked) but it felt right for the record so I kept it in, as is.
B2: STILL MISSING
The one you let go. The life that was elsewhere. Maybe you should have stayed. Stopped running.
I guess this track is my take on a lo-fi club anthem. It’s all earnest with bleached hair and sunglasses.
I think Raze ‘Break for Love’ had something to do with it, along with a general sense of Manchester and New Order-ish type feelings. A bit emotional and epic in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way.
For me that’s part of the appeal of alt disco type stuff, it straddles the gap between deadly serious and having a laugh at itself. But it’s still sincerely emotional – and you can take it either way.
B3: MAMAN’S LOVER
Every Thursday, on the way home, I walk to my guitar teacher’s house for lessons. One week I arrived and my mother was already there. She looked like she’d been gardening, only there wasn’t any soil on her hands.
This was recorded by me and my friend Jose, a Spanish Berliner also known as Joseph Salzig. He’s a great musician and experimenter, and has the most interesting record collection I know. A while back he sent me a load of recordings he’d made. Raw, improvised live jams. I listened to them in the depths of winter and found them really inspirational. Later, we recorded this track together and I thought it made a nice laid back moment to end the record.
Buy the release HERE.