Review: Ben Fleury-Steiner – The Places that Find You

A large part of what prevents The Places that Find You from being just another drop in the vast pool of electro-ambient is the sense of agitation that buzzes through it. Even the title is implicative of the record’s sharp edge: the places find you – imposing themselves upon a listener, pushing them into escapism – rather than laying dormant until actively sought out. This aggression materialises as guttural, wind tunnel rumbles that cause the more tuneful elements to flicker and sway like branches in a storm, and as the constant crackle of bitcrushed tones that likens the timbre to the patter of hail rather than placid, rippling water.

That said, there is much here that relies on the pre-established tendencies of ambient music, which somewhat undermines the album’s more original qualities. Lift the veil of crackling attach away, and the sense of harmony running underneath is often rather generic (particularly on the melodically serene opener, “White Embers”), while the decorative additions of kalimba and gentle jangles of metallic percussion often feel too deliberate and forced to be particularly evocative. There are points at which even those distinctive abrasive edges are not sufficient to mask the floaty, zone-out stereotypes that linger beneath.

But the title track is something of a redeemer, and stands as the most convincing ambient excursion the album has to offer – Fleury-Steiner’s compositional arsenal truly finds its raison d’etre here, slotting together into the hum of power generators slinking through labyrinthine sewer works. It starts life the album’s most slow-moving cut, opting to swap the overwhelming masses of texture for an alluring stillness that coaxes the listener inside. The Place that Find You is engrossing during these moments, even if those occasional stretches of genericism recall too many modern day ambient contemporaries to be uniquely transportive.