CD, BiP-HOp, 2005
It’s summertime in Britain once again, and to mark this glorious season, si-cut.db a.k.a. Douglas Benford has released this ‘archive’ wrapped in images of the English holidaymaker at his stereotypically worst; pale, flaccid bodies in sun-hats relaxing in deckchairs on a grim, stoney beach. Thankfully, that’s pretty much where the seaside imagery ends. I’m not familiar with any of Benford’s earlier work, but I had an idea of what to expect by association with various other artists, and the hypnotic techno minimalism and glitchy sonic manipulations of this 12-tracker came as no great shock. Polygon Window is the first comparison to spring to mind, but then perhaps that’s just because the Surfing On Sine Waves album also had a somewhat dreary-looking beach on the cover.
Minimalist electronica can get a bit dry and sterile sometimes — maybe that’s the point — but the more upbeat tracks like “Authenticity” hit a subliminal groove that will set your foot tapping autonomously, which always helps, while “Sustain A Rift” takes DB’s usual pallette of sounds and crafts them unexpectedly into a deep dub track, and a pretty decent one too. Later on, during “Issues? Me?”, these two poles are brought fleetingly together. Elsewhere, here and there, the rhythms give way to shimmering textures and the crackling interplay of digital spectra that first began to appear, to my knowledge, on Coil’s seminal “Worship The Glitch” album.
There’s no anthemic synth leads here, no catchy samples or obtrusive beats, and the selection of sounds and effects is firmly on the ‘restrained’ rather than the ‘eclectic’ side of the fence. None of the tracks here will get in your face and grab your attention, or go round in your head all day, but again, maybe that’s the point. Rather, they conceal moments of sublime elegance, like when the bass drum emerges halfway through “Tenure” so seamlessly that you wonder if it was there all along. It’s an album that emphasises subtlety and rewards careful listening, but will make perfectly pleasant aural wallpaper if that’s what’s required.
P.S. – After the eleven audio tracks there’s a bonus video track, “Belonging”, which in all honesty I haven’t seen yet as it’s in QuickTime format. What’s wrong with MPEGs that will play anywhere? Perhaps someone from the Windows or Mac worlds can write in and let us know what this is like.
— Andrew Clegg