Ben Neill


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Hired to write music for a Volkswagen commercial, Ben Neill eventually came up with many more tracks than were needed, and potential listeners are burdened with the dross on the ten-tracker Automotive. Though he's enjoyed a long career, and his credentials are most definitely in order (studied and played with LaMonte Young, worked with Bob Moog to develop his own instrument, the mutantrumpet), Neill isn't a great producer. These tracks could conceivably stave off boredom for up to 30 seconds when accompanied by visuals, but five or six minutes of them is simply too much. "Iceman" has all the clich├ęs of middling psychedelic trance: faux sitar, acid-squelch effects, wordless female vocals approximating ethnic fusion. The vocal track "Nite Nite" is intriguing, paced by an ambient breakbeat production and the fluttering falsetto of Andrew Montgomery (a nice substitute for the not-of-this-Earth Jeff Buckley). In the end, though, Automotive sounds exactly like work for hire: a different style for nearly every track (you're bound to find something you like), not very edgy (you don't want to scare the consumer), but vaguely postmodern -- and therefore, hip -- in its ever-shifting cinematic abstractions.

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