Monday, 19 August 2013

Benin City - Fires In The Park

Music and poetry collide spectacularly in a kaleidoscopic array on this debut album from trio Benin City.

And is is hard to know where to start singing the praises of Fires In The Park, so why not start at the start with opening track, People Will Say, a mid-tempo moody beast that lurches along with a loose jazz fusion groove, more than adequately taking the weight of the heavily thought through vocal delivery.

It is this enchanting way with words that provides just one of a handful of focal points on this release, taking the jam-packed nature of rap, which when used properly can say so much, and slowing it down to an almost spoken word pace that still manages to ride along with the music, and certainly, the comfortable pace gives the words room to hang in the air, ripe for picking, and almost every listen provides me a new favourite couplet or another line that I can relate directly to my own life.

Another plus point that works in the albums favour is the vastness of musical skills that are flexed across an everchanging soundscape, where the first track lurches, the second one bounces, fuelled by a driven pulse that grows into a full on electro-samba, Faithless quickly demonstrates Benin City's capabilities, and across just two songs they have grabbed my attention and refuse to let go.

The beautiful lament of Wha Gwan from which the album takes its title is a fragile and emotional plea that is as uplifting as it is heartbreaking, tugging at heart strings as it builds, and then Pencils drops with a slow bass walk that pulls us through a vitriolic vocal performance that is virtually spat straight into your face, switching from raised spirits to an almost confrontational throwdown .in a mere heartbeat.

This is surely why Benin City are ones to watch, and ones to watch closely, ones to study with great intent... because they are worthy of the attention.

I've only waxed lyrical about four tracks so far from a thirteen track album, and already I have said more than I ever usually find to say about almost any act I have had the fortune to review.

I could seriously continue breaking down the album into bite-sized chunks, but it is the full scope of this band that make them so appealing, for those yet to be turned onto Benin City, the shades of Wretch 32 colluding with Saul Williams should provide an ample jumping on point for both hipsters and mainstream hip-hoppers, whilst the musical diversity shown by Crystal Fighters and Faithless (the band, rather than the aforementioned track) should point you roughly in the right direction of an act that squirms against generic pigeon-holing.

And again we stumble upon another focal point, for Fires In The Park can simply be listened to, and enjoyed, or it can be voraciously consumed, taking the time to pick over the enjoyable experimentation of the band's productions, richly layered and magically uncompromising in its subtle nuances of strange effects and distortions that bleed faultlessly into the vaster picture, hiding in plain sight and demanding to be discovered.

Music and poetry colliding, that just doesn't do Benin City any justice at all, in fact it is almost demeaning to boil such complex tapestries of sound down to two simple specifics.

Those that merely read this review won't understand, and music and poetry colliding will be all they take away from this, but I'm hoping that it incites further investigation and that Fires In The Park will invite further word of mouth reactions in those curious enough to dig deeper.

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