Artist: Benji Vaughan
Summer is about over here in Portland and the rain is starting to make its way back into our lives as a constant dampening experience. While some music has always seemed more suited for the summer forest experience, some for the dark dance clubs, and others for the cold hibernating winter, Even Tundra is the type of album that can find a nesting spot at any time of year and for nearly any atmosphere. Whether you are waking up in a tent, needing background music while doing house work, dancing at a club, banging on the sofa, driving cross country, or journeying to parallel universes through the cosmic strings of the subatomic world; Even Tundra will find a way to engage and resonate within you.
Benji Vaughan has been participating in crafting some of the more interesting psychedelic music for about 15 years. I first heard him on the Prometheus Process/Hallucinogen split 12″ off of Twisted Records back in 1997. 1997 was an exciting year for those of us who were following this under appreciated and bastard off-shoot of the electronica world known as Goa/Psychedelic Trance. Artists were really getting into some mind blowing territory and the tools available to craft their projects were growing and becoming more and more brain shattering. People were definitely composing on computers, but this was long before the Ableton and softsynth takeover that would start happening shortly.
I picked up that 12″ because I was already a big fan of both Process and Hallucinogen—as well as Twisted Records in general—and it was just a part of my regular record shopping binges. After that 12″ (you can also find those tracks in a digital format on the excellent comp Dementertainment), Prometheus didn’t seem to pop up again for quite a long while. Eventually, in 2000, the album One Drop or Two was released on Creamcrop Records under the artist name of Process.
One Drop or Two is a must-have classic and is one of the finer examples of the more dark, twisted, and techy forms of psychedelic trance that was beginning to take hold around the turn of the century. While the album was released as a Process album, Benji actually co-wrote 8 of the 9 tracks on it, so it probably should have been released as a Prometheus Process album. After that, Benji began releasing solo tracks and albums under his Prometheus moniker and also began collaborating on a variety of projects including Younger Brother with Simon Posford. While I may not be super into the evolution of Younger Brother and the vocals that go along with it, the music behind it is quite extraordinary and the three albums released under his Prometheus moniker are some excellent variations of uptempo psychedelic dance music as well; which brings us back to Even Tundra.
Even Tundra is a warm, lush, psychedelic collage of various atmospheres and landscapes. It’s a bit downtempo, a bit techno, a touch driving, and all wrapped in the mindful and skilled craftsmanship of someone who likes to make people dance while also providing a backdrop for those who might be stuck in their heads and unable to move. Each of the tracks on this album evolve and grow while the seconds move forward and the sequencing of the tracks help create a journey that is sometimes missed in this day and age of single mp3 releases. From the opening track Ursa Major to the back-to-back tracks in the middle Busy Busy Bee and Pyramid, to the closers Nectar and Catherine Wheel, Even Tundra’s ride is entirely enjoyable and warming.
A lot has changed in the world since Clarity From Deep Fog was released and Benji is one of the rare artists who has grown, developed, and matured his sound and style without turning into abysmal sounding rubbish. In an age wherein so much music sounds derivative, uninspired, or simply cheesy (or has too many “drops”); Benji has shown us that it is still possible to write new psychedelic music that isn’t full-on, progressive, psydub, techno, or downtempo—while still infusing pieces of the past and sounds you are already familiar with. That’s the type of weaving that should continue to be encouraged.
So, with all of that said, Even Tundra is a great album that has certainly earned The King’s Seal of Approval.
Thanks for the music Benji and I look forward to where you take us next.
-King Goa Constrictor