Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Ben Laver, an independent composer based out of London that has a brand new record available entitled ‘Rise.’ His new endeavor is a compellingly unique one - a journey that challenges the structure of genres and composition. Is ‘Rise’ an album worth having on your radar of up and coming independent music? Well, let’s dig into it extensively and discern whether or not it is.
Laver is the co-owner and founder of ‘Box Of Toys Audio,’ a company that specializes in sound design for major companies like the BBC, Nike, Porsche, and more. ‘Rise’ is indicative of the reason large entities like those hire his company. It’s fluid, superbly organized, and emotionally evocative throughout its run. The opening track, ‘Movements In Colour,’ is a stunning portrayal of droning, atmospheric piano and synthesizers. It’s sparse, but absolutely lovely.
The titular song, ‘Rise,’ offers up a rather different landscape, one full with more beats and intensity. The sprinklings of elusive aural musings are especially fantastic, and you’ll find yourself listening to ‘Rise’ and continually discovering new nooks and crannies of its experience. The analog synthesizers and explorative piano experimentations of songs like ‘Love and Imagination’ are stunning as well.
I listened to ‘Rise’ through thrice - as I do any Independent Spotlight feature. All three times, tracks like ‘Rise’ and ‘Kingdom Of Heaven’ sent my mind into a bizarre, existential place. These contemplative musical inclinations are profoundly beautiful, flowing together seamlessly to create the illusion of one ‘whole’ piece of art rather than segmented entities.
Nothing on this record is overbearing. At the same time, however, nothing devolves into monotony, either. Laver walks a masterful balance in that regard, whereas many instrumental composers often fall victim to ostentation or boredom inducing soundscapes. Even songs like ‘Breathe,’ which feel very bare and minimalist, still provide pleasing, mellow atmospheres.
Occasionally, the album does take a hard left or right into slightly more obscure territory, but always for the better. ‘Lifeforms,’ one of the album’s best tracks, is an excellent example of this. The stringed instrumentation is far from traditional, evoking world themes alongside some experimental ideas. ‘She Remembers’ follows, and harnesses tinges of drone influence as synthesizers cascade over another another without end.
‘Notes for Another Life’ is a short track, not even clocking in near a minute and a half. As such, it feels like an interlude, a separation between ‘She Remembers’ and ‘Acoustic Reflections.’ The tracks pair together nicely with ‘Another Life’ in the middle, so much so that they compile like a long track if you listen to them one after the next. ‘Acoustic Reflections’ explores piano motifs with to wonderful effect.
‘Home’ has a deeply melancholy feel to it, as if to orchestrate bittersweet emotions. That actually brings me to two vital parts of this record: it’s interpretable and it’s emotional. Each of these tracks may feel different for each listener. Some listeners may not find ‘Home’ melancholy or bittersweet. That, combined with the undeniable emotion of each track, culminates into a terrific collection of tracks.
‘In My Head’ incorporates some further electronic beats, perhaps more so than any song before it. The result is eclectic, solidifying Laver’s ability to jump between atmospheric, classical, and electronic music pretty effortlessly. ‘How It Ends,’ the fittingly titled finale, sounds eerily similar to some of the material Max Richter has penned for the HBO series, ‘The Leftovers.’ I’d go as far to argue that the soundtrack from the show is a must-listen if you enjoy ‘Rise’ as an album, and in particular, ‘How It Ends.’
There is something very special about an independent artist harnessing instrumental composition in a new, refreshing way. Too often instrumental music in this scene is inundated by pretentiousness and experimentation that doesn’t pan out well. That’s really not the case with ‘Rise.’ ‘Rise’ does take small risks, in tracks like ‘Lifeforms,’ for example. It does so elegantly, however, and never missteps because of its close attention to detail.
There isn’t one bad track on ‘Rise.’ There isn’t one boring one, either. It’s an intriguing set of songs that feels perfect as a whole collection. At thirty-seven minutes, every person who embarks on this journey owes it to themselves to do so in its entirety. ‘Rise’ is one of the best albums from the independent scene in quite awhile.
Connect with Ben Laver on his website: