Build Buildings presents A Generation of Books, a collection of songs built around brittle beats, colorful drones, found sounds and bursts of melodic interjections. Ben Tweel, the sole member of Build Buildings, has created an album that balances the best aspects of his previous work, with songs that range from insistent to melancholy to playful. Fans of Jan Jelinek, Oval, Four Tet, Boards of Canada, Opiate, Matthew Herbert, Autechre, Ezekiel Honig, or Fennesz will find plenty to enjoy here.
This is music about sound. Finding inspiration in the clicks and clacks of pencils, chopsticks, scotch tape dispensers and candy wrappers, Tweel turns the familiar noises of these objects into crisp, compelling beats. This album’s melodies started as samples of organic instruments (including Rhodes piano, acoustic guitar, upright piano, harp, mbira and harmonica) then processed into drones and drops of melody that often lose the identity of the instruments while retaining their warmth.
In this album, Tweel creates vibrant compositions with a minimum of elements. “Constructed Light” deconstructs and reassembles tiny guitar fragments into pointillism. “Bookless” follows a rich tone until a tumbling brittle beat enters and plays back and forth with the melody. “Pasteboard” is a thick headspace of micropoint percussion and deep kick drum, forming a compelling beat that grows on the back of a minimal drone. “Arctic Open” folds the listener into its lush intro until a head-nodding beat enters to carry the song.
AB060 | March 2015
Build Buildings is Ben Tweel. He makes music with household sounds, instruments, samples, and computers. Build Buildings has been featured on radio, television and motion picture soundtracks (including NBC’s World of Adventure Sports; National Public Radio’s Radiolab, On the Media and StartUp; and feature documentary Valley Uprising) and can be heard on a variety of internet and traditional radio stations.
Build Buildings is Ben Tweel’s project for many years and although I haven’t heard his more recent music (the last time might have been in Vital Weekly 634), I am always interested in his particular brand of electronic dance music. Much of what he does has to do with ‘sound’ and not much else, which is something I always like. No bullshit, just music. Tweel loves sounds; of clicks and clacks of pencils, chopsticks, scotch tape dispensers and candy wrappers. He samples them and then loops them around, plays with them, adds a bit of Rhodes pinao, acoustic guitar, upright piano, harp, mbira and harmonica – all of which are no doubt also sampled and made to measure to fit the beats he’s already crafted and then he plays around with them until he has a three minute piece of music. Lots of ‘intelligent’ beats, whatever these are, more glitches and everything with a fair amount of warmth. A bit of Fennesz, a bit of Herbert (especially when it comes to sampling electro-acoustic sources, even when Build Buildings doesn’t come with a grandiose political story) and Oval, but Build Buildings has a rather nice, playful sound; joyous even at times. With none of these pieces really long and a sufficient amount of variation this is one of the better albums I heard from him. It doesn’t stay in much the same place but keeps moving around, from strength to strength. Not something to be easily found on the dance floor I guess, but it works well as background music in the modern household.
No instrumentation is listed on Ben Tweel’s latest Build Buildings collection A Generation Of Books, but that’s alright: listeners familiar with his previous work know that he’s something of a ‘found sound’ producer who generates his colourful electro-acoustic material from household items (pencils, chopsticks, scotch tape dispensers, candy wrappers, etc.) as well as sampled instruments whose natural sounds are de-familiarized via computer processing. For this concise, thirty-six-minute set, Tweel mutated real-world samples and instruments such as piano (electric and upright), acoustic guitar, harp, mbira, and harmonica into crisp beat patterns and song structures.
Packed with detail (“Argosy,” for example, is so rich, it could pass for a roomful of typewriters compulsively clacking at lightspeed), the twelve tracks are vibrant in tone and playful in spirit, and the impression left is of a person who not only delights in creating music but is happy to leave excessively ponderous music-making to others. With ample doses of crackle and clatter sprinkled across Twell’s productions, it’s hard not to hear echoes of the clicks’n’cuts era that now seems so long ago. That’s especially true of “Demba,” where a rapid thrum of clicks is joined by stuttering textures that can’t help but recall early Oval. Elsewhere, “Constructed Light” similarly builds itself up from a generous array of micro guitar fragments, while “Heavy Water” flickers with a downtempo lope that doesn’t seem all that removed from something Ezekiel Honig might have produced a few years ago. Rather more uptempo is “Arctic Open,” whose found sounds-generated percussion works itself into a groove that’s vaguely suggestive of beatbox and even footwork.
If there’s one thing that primarily distances Tweel’s tracks from the clicks’n’cuts tradition, it’s his focus on melody and song structure. Yes, there’s no shortage of whirr and click within a given Build Buildings piece, but such elements are deployed in the service of the song. One comes away from A Generation Of Books thinking of it as a melody-based collection of instrumental songs that just happens to be assembled from found sounds and treated samples.
L’artwork du disque en question le laissait doucement présager par son graphisme rappelant celui de certains albums d’Oval: Ben Tweel, l’homme se cachant derrière le nom Build Buildings, est un fin connaisseur du courant glitch et il le prouve. A l’écoute de cet album d’electronica délicate dans la continuité de ceux qu’Oval produisait auparavant (Dok en 1998, Scenariodisk en 1999), on se dit qu’il en connait à n’en pas douter les techniques sur le bout des doigts et en maîtrise les subtilités à la perfection.
Le glitch est ce genre musical créé par Markus Popp dans les années 90 qui s’appuie principalement sur les parasites sonores que sont par exemple les sautes de CD, les crissements et autres distorsions liées à la numérisation de données. Il s’agit alors de produire, en assemblant ces accidents sonores, une forme informe de beauté mélodique. Ou, dit autrement, de créer des mélodies belles car volontairement défectueuses, les accidents étant toujours “programmés”.
En une douzaine de fragments courts et minimalistes, A generation of Books fait défiler ses micro-harmonies en les passant à travers un mixeur dont on aurait remplacé les lames par des algorithmes informatiques découpant et recollant le son à leur guise. Si l’album de Build Buildings ne propose rien de foncièrement nouveau, il garde néanmoins pour lui une certaine préciosité grâce à sa faculté à reproduire le meilleur suc de ce que l’on avait tant aimé dans les sonorités grésillantes d’Oval.