Existing somewhere between the tentacular smears of ambient music and the forward pulsations of clubland, Benjamin Finger’s discography doesn’t so much break the mould as subtly extend existing templates to rich effect. Rhythmic without having recourse to the dance floor, Finger brings a keen awareness of structure and a wide sonic palette to his compositions. Synths and other electronics nestle up against piano, acoustic guitar, vocals, field recordings and so on, and his pulsing, song-like forms retain elements of harmony and melody to give them a lightness of touch that’s missing from many of his peers.
Granted, it’s not always perfect. With 12 albums since 2009 there are bound to be a few missteps, after all. But there’s a lot to like in Finger’s output, and ‘Scale of Blindness’ is one of the most coherent expressions of his aesthetic yet. (Interested listeners may also want to check out last year’s ‘For Those About To Love’, released on Kate Carr’s Flaming Pines label and 2009’s stunning ‘Amorosa Sensitiva’ on Blue Tapes.)
‘Scale of Blindness’ showcases Finger’s willingness to allow jarring dissonance into his sound world. The fizzing sawbone synths of ‘Anxiety Blues’ add grit and texture to what would otherwise have been a polite slice of babble and drift. There’s a similar vibe to ‘Vagabond Void’, although this time it’s a grid of grainy scuffles and springy clatters beavering away underneath the layers of dreamy retro arpeggio.
If Finger often places his moments of disruption specifically to disrupt listener ennui, we’re never short gorgeous moments to luxuriate in. Even the sharp elbowed ‘Fragrant Darkness’, which starts off in a jumble of CPU growls not unlike the boffin drones that opened OMD’s ‘Maid of Orleans’ back in 1981, can’t help but reshape itself into a diaphanous swirl, like some vast, untethered jellyfish floating through the clear blue depths.
Indeed, faced with such instinctive loveliness, one can’t help occasionally hoping for Finger to indulge his noisier tendencies a little more. ‘If Memory Preserves’ uses a found-sound monologue that signals an interesting digression into post-rock, splicing GYBE’s ‘Blaise Bailey Finnegan III’ with a Mogwai-style anti-pastoral in an act of moody hybridization.
The 12 minutes of album closer ‘Vanishing Faces’ demonstrate the value of melodic restraint. Most of its 12-minute runtime is occupied by simple synth motifs repeating and crossing with gloomy, addictive charm, like a pilgrim from the Glistening Examples discography slumped on the sofa with a hangover and a cuppa. But just you’re digging its mournful cycles, Finger cuts in a coda of bitter, chilly strings, reminiscent of Walter Fähndrich’s beautiful viola improvisations, before the whole thing dissolves into frosty gas. This is maximum affect achieved through minimal gesture. Melancholic indulgence. Nourishment through sadness.