Bit / Mens * von Seggern / Debenedictis

Bit / Mens


Ard Bit (Ard Janssen) and Radboud Mens are two artists from the Netherlands, each with his own musical history. Ard Bit (‘Electronic compost (sic!) and sounds artist’, according to his Discogs profile) studied electronic music composition at the Institute of Sonology, and has released music since 2009. A lot of his works involve field recordings. Radboud Mensmusical history goes back further in time: he started creating noise machines in 1988; his first release appeared in 1999.

Though their music definitely shares a common ground, their individual output can be quite different. And that difference is the starting point for this work, in which they explore ‘the paradox of drone music, where stasis and movement coalesce in a delicate dance’.
This is ‘drone music’ indeed, but it is filled to the brim with all kinds of sonic details, ‘tiny acoustic events [that] enrich the sonic landscape with subtlety and nuance’. The result is a set of (nine) adventurous soundscapes where so much is happening that they no longer fit the classic definition of ‘music that is ignorable …’ but at the same time have an ambient atmosphere all over them.

‘This album is about the tension between the horizontal and vertical musical events’ – the ‘horizontal’ being the underlying drone ‘creating an illusion of immobility’, the ‘vertical’ being the ‘small acoustic events that introduce the elusive dynamics’.
The whole is more than the sum of it parts – that applies to the two artists working together as well as to the resulting music. Ard Bit and Radboud Mens manage to refresh the genre with a lively kind of sound art seldom heard.

The sad news is that Shimmering Moods Records released the CD edition in a limited run of 50 only, which – you guessed it – sold out before the release date. This one definitely needs a repress!

Taking Shasta Mountain


It feels perhaps somewhat tricky to name an album so directly referring to Brian Eno’s second solo album Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, because it will immediately lead to unfair comparisons. So what’s the link exactly?
Mount Shasta refers to the mountain that John von Seggern and Dean DeBenedictis climbed on their trip after recording the sessions for this album. Secondly, Eno’s album title ‘was based on one of the few operas allowed to be produced in Communist China, a place John von visited many times as a bass player for Cantonese pop stars’. And while the music on this album may not have a direct link to Eno’s, it is definitely indebted to his legacy.

Not only did Von Seggern perform bass with Cantonese pop stars, he also contributed to Jon Hassell’s albums Seeing Through Sound and Listening To Pictures, after which he focused on a more ambient output. A year ago, he released his album Ambient Bass Guitar. On Taking Shasta Mountain, he plays bass and a Chapman Stick.
Dean DeBenedictis, also known sometimes as Surface 10, is a composer, musician, and performer working in different genres (he worked with a group like Brand X in the past), but is mainly known for his ambient / techno ambient output. Here, he contributes keyboard and samples.

As can be expected with their backgrounds like this, this is not exactly your average standard ambient album. Their track are full of subtle details emphasizing the atmosphere, which can be soft and friendly but can also take quite a darker turn at times (like in Shadow Lake).

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