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

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more

2020-03-17
Cruise to the Edge and Seaprog 2020 Festivals Postponed – The worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus has started to produce casualties in the music world, and festivals are not immune. We've had word that both the Cruise to the Edge (originally slated for March 27 - April 1) and Seaprog (originally June 5-7) have been postponed to later dates, with those dates to be announced. » Read more

2020-03-06
McCoy Typer RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of one of the most influential pianists in the history of jazz, McCoy Tyner. His tenure with John Coltrane in the early 60s includes some of the most treasured recordings of the era, including My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. After leaving Coltrane's group, he had a long and successful solo career. He was 81. » Read more

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Phideaux - Fiendish, Ghost Story, Chupacabras, 313, & The Great Leap – Even if you've never heard of Phideaux, you already know one thing about them. They are a busy little band – though sometimes I wonder if "band" is the right word. It's almost a solo project of...  (2007) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues