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Album Review: Ben Khan - Ben Khan

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Ben Khan exploded onto the electropop scene in 2014 and 2015, with his debut EPs 1992 and 1000, which feature well-known hits, ‘Youth’ and ‘Savage’. Since announcing his signing with Dirty Hit, Khan has re-emerged, welcomed back by his fans with open arms.

The eagerly anticipated release of his debut self-titled album sent his fans into a frenzy; they ate up pre-released singles ‘2000 angels’, ‘ruby’ and ‘monsoon daydream’ and demanded more from the young producer. Now, dropping his debut with the help of the iconic PJ Harvey and Dave Cooley (known from his M83 work) it has been widely remarked that the album was worth the wait.

Ben Khan begins with one of the best-received singles, ‘2000 angels’ which immediately establishes a sense of creative dominance, exuded throughout the album. The track is driven by pulsating, vibrant and bass-heavy computer-based synths, adding a futuristic, space-age feel to its rhythm. Compellingly catchy, '2000 Angels' feels reminiscent of the beat in SG Lewis’ ‘Coming Up’.

Harmonies simply add to this multi-textured brilliance. The lyrics, though not the sole focus of the song, match up to its transcendent title, “So you want 2000 begging angels / To take your soul down and marry your fate / To the ones who love you not the ones who hate / You know they don't deserve you”.

Commenting on the album, Khan sought to create something ‘unintimidating’ and ‘beautiful’, thus the record marries the produced electropop sound with organic sounds, such as guitar, that he recorded using a field mic. Films like Blade Runner played silently whilst he created it and acted as a source of inspiration for the many themes that are weaved into its essence.

A multitude of contradicting themes and sounds amount in the jazz-funk fusion guitar of ‘do it right’ and the refreshingly unique ‘waterfall’. Acoustic strums meet electric production in a solely instrumental single. ‘ruby’ is a culmination of different layers of production; acoustic chords are tinted by electronics, while the harmonies and lyricism take a step forward – the track catches its breath in time with the lyrics, “Still can’t tell if you love me / Are we gonna break the spell?”, allowing its potent blast of emotive language to truly settle.

When asked about his influences, Khan keeps his cards close to his chest but does briefly mention his father: a Kashmir-born silk-maker. Khan takes hold of the spirituality of his father's birthplace, threading and sewing twinkly, otherworldly references into his sound and, occasionally, his lyrics. 

Funk guitar overlayed with soft vocals are a common theme within the album, but are most prominent in tracks such as ‘a.t.w (against the wall)’, ‘the green’ and ‘love faded’. The electronic production adds an effective depth and pace to these tracks, and oscillating beats command attention, elevating Khan’s instrumental recordings.

The album clearly spotlights Khan’s talent for magnificent beats and electronic production, notably in the more synthetically powered tracks ‘fool for you’ and ‘soul into the sun’, but could be criticised at times for losing its depth. Often, Khan's words can be overpowered by the song's own production. A prime example being in 'monsoon daydream' which, although innately funky, is lead by heavy syncopated synthesisers and lasers which in time, strongarm the muted vocals.

This, however, is not to say that Khan neglects the lyrical aspect of his album; ‘our father’ tackles religion, and “I do not exist” drives a powerful message through lyrical distortion.

Ben Khan is a perfectly engineered masterpiece with unique fusions and influences; Khan definitely succeeds in his aim to tell a story through his music – the album is abundant with visions of the futuristic, supported by fluorescent beats and beams. However, the album is not wholly palatable, as songs occasionally become over-produced and lose themselves in what they're trying to become.

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