Review: Benjamin Finger – Listen To My Nerves Hum

In a transition that mimics someone moving from the bustle of the capital city to the clarity and open space of the rural countryside, Listen To My Nerves Hum is a drastic breakaway from the rhythmic fragmentation and acoustic/electronic blurring of 2011’s For You, Sleepsleeper. Time unfolds in a patient, solitary line rather than as a cross-tidal heave of ellipsis and constant panic; each moment is permitted the space to drift into the immediate future, embracing the points at which explicit action is completely absent. Where For You, Sleepsleeper behaved as though silence and stillness was a form of death – relentlessly moving as though the body needed motion to survive – Listen To My Nerves Hum is the sound of a composer embracing a corporeal reality that drinks generously from individual pockets of time and delights in the examination of small squares of detail.

The piano is the central element (and not just the keys of the piano either – the faint creak of the pedals and the light tap of fingers on ivory are equally present), and its melodies are heavy handed and simple. I feel as though they were probably composed quickly, so as to allow the instinctive muscle reflexes of the player to remain fresh and untamed by practice and over-analysis, and in fact, it’s the manner of the execution rather than the tune itself that arrests me. Some tracks cascade unevenly like a toddler descending a flight of stairs, while others tiptoe between chords and hold certain chord postures, enacting some sort of tonality yoga.

Meanwhile, the piano is decorated with field recordings and voices, trickling in one at a time like the solitary visitors to a mind in the midst of meditation. Fireworks stream overhead, gentle bouts of singing slink between the piano strings, while conversations descend into babble through the filter of delay, like phantom reminders of Finger’s busier, more chaotic past. It’s an album of simple pleasure and unflinching introspection, and even when a congregative turbulence swarms around the central melodies – the voices warbling and flimsy windows shutting on “Sevilla On Tape”, for example – Finger confronts them for what they are, presenting them as naked object against a canvas of white, rather than wrapping them in the din of everything else.