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Ben Cox — Consciousness and Other Tricks of the Light
(Spotted Peccary SPM-4501, 2020, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2020-06-13

Consciousness and Other Tricks of the Light Cover art

With a long history of recording music for television, trade shows, and radio ads, Cox’ main gig is as a mastering engineer for the Spotted Peccary and Lotuspike labels (as well as some independent artists) going way back to the mid-80s. With only one previous release, On Water in 2005, his work through the years has been mostly behind the scenes, but one listen to his latest Consciousness and Other Tricks of the Light will convince anyone that he is a powerful electronic composer in his own right, with a plethora of original ideas and a profound understanding of dynamics, structure, melodic concepts, free space, and textures within the music he creates. There are only six tracks here, ranging from only a couple minutes to nearly an album side, and each one is completely different from all the others, creating a unique listening experience. Normally I’m not fond of spoken words together with music, but on the album opener, “Einstein Cross,” Cox fuses a bouncy and melodic electronic rhythm with something akin to a physics lecture going on in the background, as the sound grows and evolves, One might well be reminded of a collision between mid-70s Kraftwerk and Djam Karet’s “Consider Figure Three”; the important thing is that it works splendidly, and with only one track of its kind on the album, it holds a unique place in the overall journey forward. Cox offers a masterful command of studio ambience juxtaposed with powerfulful distorted electric guitar textures on the album’s shortest track, “Chirality,” one that I’m wishing could go on much longer than just shy of three minutes. “Delta Waves” is a perfect union of ambient electronic sounds, melodic structures that come and go as the piece proceeds, and subtle undercurrents of texture that form waves beneath the surface, shaping the ongoing sonic envelope; again this is only a little over eight minutes but could easily be the seed for a much longer piece. The thirteen-minute closer, “Matins,” works in deep subconscious territory with subtle shades of tone evolving slow motion over the duration, with brightly colored melodies cutting through the hazy fog at random moments, with curious bubbling and scritchy noise elements crackling through the surface as it proceeds. With two more excellent tracks that haven’t even been mentioned yet, Cox is certainly mining a different vein than most of his Spotted Peccary colleagues, but it’s one that is at once interesting and satisfying. Go listen for youself at the link below.

Filed under: New releases, 2020 releases

Related artist(s): Ben Cox

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