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

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Dave Sinclair - Full Circle & Into the Sun – Dave Sinclair has long been known as the main keyboardist in Caravan. During recording for the group's The Unauthorized Breakfast Item CD, a rift between Sinclair and longtime bandleader Pye Hastings...  (2004) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues