For Ben Bennett, any implement is fair game if it makes a sound, but especially if it’s cheap, homemade, broken, or just generally not something you’d find sold in a music store. For the second half of track 6 on Wiperwill, “How to Make an Important Decision”, the main sound seems to be of a chair being dragged around the floor; “I Was Sleeping On Top of Pine Trees, A Giant Pack of Wolves Knocked Over My Bed” sounds like a close-miked recording of Ben’s own heartbeat and breathing. In a performance video that the Vaudeville Mews used on their web site for the February 26 show, Ben plays from inside a cardboard appliance box, eliciting sounds from the box itself. Drum heads not attached to drums, pots and pans, cans, various bits of metal, wood, and rubber, and droning atonal homemade wind instruments (played with circular breathing?) are the main sources of sound used in his work, such that at his more rhythmic, percussive moments he might just as easily be a street musician as someone you’d find performing in art galleries. A blurring of the boundaries between primitivism and art may actually be part of the point, and Ben isn’t messing around. The titles of the tracks on Wiperwill suggest having been made up post facto, but track 9 is called “It’s Not Just Willy-Nilly”, and then there’s the bio I read that actually opens with the phrase “Ben Bennett is a totally legit musician” — perhaps meant to make you wonder why one might feel the need to clarify that point right off the bat.
Any way you look at it, however, Ben is fascinating to watch or hear. He evidently started out as a drummer and/or percussionist and started getting more experimental ideas, about stripping down his instrumentation to its most basic elements of things that vibrate, about the essence of sound itself and the physicalities of its production. He makes use of the acoustics of whatever room he’s placed in, even moving about the venue in search of the best spot for his sound waves to reverberate against each other. Wiperwill consists of unaltered live acoustical recordings of short pieces ranging from blasts of driving, clattering percussion rhythms some might describe as “tribal”, to drones that sometimes sound like a time-stretched honking of a goose. It is impossible to let this music fade into the background — it is bracing, demands your attention, and positively begs to be played out in the open room on some good speakers, where it is likely to make your neighbors wonder what the hell is going on at your place.