Exposé Online banner

Ben Levin — Life and Back
(Bandcamp no#, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-10-12

Life and Back Cover art

Ben Levin is the guitarist of Bent Knee, and with all the recent buzz about that band, it’s interesting to take a look at what he does on his own. Life and Back is his seventh release, counting solo efforts along with four credited to the Ben Levin Group. Obviously taking Courtney Swain’s vocals out of the picture presents a very different sound, and there’s also no violin here, but the same spirit of exploration is definitely present. Aside from some guest vocals by Bent Knee bandmate Jessica Kion, Levin did this all on his own, with guitar, bass, keyboards, and percussion backing his vocals. The percussion generally sounds electronic, either by origin or processing, and while there are touches of hip-hop style to some of the beats, they are much too skittery and erratic to really cross over to that market except in the most experimental fringe. His lyrics are delivered as singing and rapping by turns, and subject matter ranges widely, from brutally direct and personal to oblique and imagistic. There are unexpected sounds around every corner, heavily processed keyboards, weird samples, and distorted drums, then suddenly delicate acoustic guitar. The poetry of the vocals reminds me at times of Peter Blegvad tossed into a digital maelstrom. “Waiting” is a particular highlight, a touching portrait of dealing with a loved one suffering from dementia which pulls no punches regarding the indignities and consequences of old age, but also serves as an honest rumination about the emotions brought up in the situation. It’s the track with the greatest participation from Kion, with her providing both backing and lead at times, and it also features some amazingly twisted instrumental sounds. Life and Back is a shining counter-example to all of the over-indulgent solo projects that have been enabled by current technology, full of originality and surprise.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Ben Levin

More info
http://benlevingroup.bandcamp.com/album/life-and-back

Latest news

2018-10-17
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more

2018-09-29
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more

2018-09-25
Help the Psychic Equalizer Avoid Extinction – Last year we reviewed the debut album by Psychic Equalizer, a musical project of Hugo Selles. He's now working on the ambitious follow-up to that release, and is seeking funding from listeners around the world. » Read more

2018-09-05
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Rosebud - Rosebud – Ten songs give almost as many stylistic snapshots. The sound of a love-in, with a keyboard, in Latin America; no trace of Carlos anywhere. A moody testament with sultry vocals grazing...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues