Review – “Benedicte” – Benedicte

reviewed by Chris Matei

Toronto’s Benedicte is a one-woman show in the form of Maxime Gordon, and much like the monastic collective to which her minimalist electronic project alludes, she presides over a neatly regimented, clearly ordered, and deeply ascetic worldview in this self-titled release. She makes a compelling argument here: namely, that reverence and lushness need not be coded with sensuality to be engaging.

The EP’s early tracks plumb the kind of stutter-sampled, chilled out future-garage waters that might be inhabited by Jamie XX or James Blake, all clicky hi-hats and handclaps and vowel sounds stretched into glitched out pads as on the increasingly sinister “Intro” and pitch-distorted vocals layered into digital mantras on “Fight.”

“@You” is a darker synthwave jam, and a highlight in this brief collection, rolling monophonic growl and wavy bass across choral reefs . As “Benedicte” progresses, the billowing vocals briefly highlighted here will take up a bigger and bigger portion of the album’s sonic picture. This is, unfortunately, somewhat to Gordon’s detriment. In its closing third, the album takes on an air of impressionistic solemnity and engages in repeated flirtations with a style that is clearly influenced by Braids circa that band’s Flourish//Perish mode. “Backbone” is just a bit boring, to be honest – it doesn’t do nearly enough to gather itself before committing to letting go with a rockslide of sequenced drumwork. “Crawford” starts out with menacing intent,  but loses its thread amid repetitive structures such as the chopped-up breathy phrasings that give it its framework.

There’s a deeper implication of footnotes and references buried behind “Benedicte,” a language of production and instrumentation built around scarcity and renovated, post-structural soundscaping. The album lays bare the objects of contemplation and academic exploration at the core of Maxime Gordon’s musical cosmology, but there’s not quite as much verve in the execution and down-to-brass-tacks songcraft of “Benedicte” as there is seen from a conceptual standpoint.

Top Tracks: “Fight,” “@You”

Rating: Young Hoot (Decent)

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