Album Premiere: Benjamin Shaw—’Megadead’

Posted: by The Editor

Photo by: Aisha Latosski

Benjamin Shaw looks the type of guy who talks to himself aloud in public. The sort of lanky, muttering introvert who’s either chronically stoned or hiding something spectacular behind those insomniac eyes. His music suggests the latter. Megadead, his seventh full-length which we’re premiering in full below, is at once ravishingly bizarre and  violently self-loathing. The interplay between Shaw’s opulent, skyward musical arrangements and his lyrics—drab at their brightest, self-threatening at their darkest—is, in a voyeuristic sense, strangely difficult to look away from.

“I got things to talk about / I got hell to pay / stupid boring piece of shit / won’t just go away,” his processed whisper intones over a slinky-like bassline on “PUSH IT DOWN.” Vocally, it’s reminiscent of Mathew Lee Cothran’s (Coma Cinema) desperate chirp, but musically the cascading synths and clacking rhythms are more akin to his Australian contemporary Katie Dey. Both musicians evoke otherworldly lands that are best explored in solitude. Music that’s intended effects kick in late at night in quiet bedrooms.

But Shaw’s songs are longer and more tender than the grating bursts that appear on Dey’s Flood NetworkMegadead‘s second track is seven minutes of throbbing bassline, spacey electronic strings, and dense synth strokes that wouldn’t sound out of place on the recent Nicolas Jaar side-project, A.A.L. (Against All Logic). It’s the only track on here that’s almost danceable, and although some of the plundered old movie samples he sprinkles in bring The Avalanches to mind, Shaw’s usual momentum is gooey not groovy.

There’s a whole run of cuts on the record’s second half that are syrupy throughout, but make you wait until the end for the sweetness. His pacing is slow and deliberate, but there’s always a climactic reward for being forced to hear him choke out self-disparaging lines like, “I bring nothing to the table / It’s nothing to worry about / yeah I got friends / mind your own business.” However, closer, “Hole,” truly does drag its listeners down to the depths of his suicide contemplations, and then up to the record’s sonic high-point. Buzzing, whirring, and ringing noises are set against a warbly, minor-key synth arpeggio that fizzles out suddenly into erratic bloops.

Megadead puts you right beside its maker as he helplessly glares at himself in the mirror. But the music that soundtracks those dark moments is as beautiful as it is morose.

Stream it all below:

Megadead is out 8/31 via Audio Antihero (UK/US) and Kirigirisu Recordings (Japan).

Eli Enis | @eli_enis

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