Surface Tensions

Surface 10

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Surface Tensions Review

by Jo-Ann Greene

Surface 10 (aka Dean De Benedictis), has always worked along the edges, seemingly fascinated by dichotomies, and over the years has created astonishing experimental music that counterintuitively are surprisingly accessible. Surface Tensions follows in these footsteps, a stunning album that has as much to offer the tech geek as the more unenlightened general listener.

The album title beautifully sums up the set, which is awash in serene atmospheres that simultaneously bristle with discomforting sounds and moods. "Dawn/Bleep/Dusk" is a perfect example of these counter-currents, its luminescent melody initially snipped into smaller pieces, at times almost shorting out, while a rhythmic tone buzzes above and a propulsive rhythm drives the piece from below, until the strands of melody slowly begin to interlace until all the threads finally connect. Like a jigsaw puzzle, many of the tracks open with a splatter of disjointed sounds, sequences, vocal samples and weird noises, some of which loop around and around, a detached rhythm begins, and then De Benedictis begins deftly weaving them together, until miraculously they all fall into perfect place, coalescing into melodies and rhythms before our ears. But Surface 10's specialty is conjuring up such organic sounding pieces from such obviously electronic sources, all the more so considering De Benedictis lays out the individual bits and bytes right in front of us. "It lives," shouted Dr. Frankenstein, as his creation took its first breath. And like the monster, so Surface Tensions is brought to life by an electrical current, an energy that vibrates through the entire set. Always in flux, the music never drifts with the current, instead tensing and releasing like a pacemaker. But that tension keeps listeners alert, even during the album's most ambient sections, aware to the minute buildup of melody, the gradual relaxation in rhythm, the tightening up of the sounds into their final pattern, and their gradual disintegration back into the ether. Studio whiz kids will spend months identifying and attempting to re-create the fragmented sounds found within this set, the rest of us will just sit back in awe.

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