Even though Telekom Electronic Beats doesn’t publish reviews, we still listen to a lot of new music. Our new occasional “recommended” series is our attempt to highlight some of the noteworthy releases that come through our office. This week’s pick is BNJMN’s Hypnagogia, a beautifully introspective techno LP that ranks as one of the Berlin-based producer’s best. TEB Senior Editor Sven Von Thülen shared a few thoughts about why it’s his recommended listen.
Nearly eight years have passed since BNJMN (a.k.a. Ben Thomas), released his last album, the wonderfully engrossing Black Square. A lot has happened since then. Thomas moved to Berlin, switched studios a couple of times and kept experimenting and developing his sound. This extended phase of experimentation saw him depart from his hazy, densely layered atmospheric work to explore darker, more functional and unsettling tropes on a number of singles for high profile labels like Tresor, Delsin, Technicolour and his own imprints Brack and Tiercel. On Hypnagogia, his third studio album, Thomas now combines the monochrome, techno-shaped aesthetics that he’s been recently exploring with the soothing and melodic qualities his music has always had. The result is his most rounded and meditative effort yet.
“I need my own space with no noise or people around me to enter this zone where you work on some music and suddenly five hours have passed. Time does literally change in those moments, but you are not aware of it. You only realize afterwards what happened. The music is the documentation of that moment and then you listen back, and you don’t really recall making it,” Thomas explained over a glass of water during a short stop at the TEB office.
Apparently, quite a few of those ephemeral moments captured by his computer made it onto the album. Take “Theta Wave” for instance, one of Hypnagogia’s high-points. Like most of his music, “Theta Wave” is built on few elements, that often get introduced and slip in and out of consciousness through long fades. The way the hi-hats, the percussion and the swirling synth sequence ebb and flow over melancholic pads in rhythmic unison show how well Thomas is able to create truly immersive techno tracks that mess with your perception of time.
On “Swarm” he follows a similar path, leading with a widescreen pad before slowly introducing different percussive elements over a syncopated bass drum—then the pad drops out leading into a thirty second climax of effect-wrangled percussion. “Glowed”, one of the album’s three expansive ambient pieces, is another key moment with its introspective and meandering melodies reminiscent of Aphex Twin.
“I was searching for states in between wakefulness and sleep,” he explained. “I find myself in this hypnagogic state quite frequently, where I am not awake and not asleep but somewhere in between. I wonder if that has a subconscious effect on what I do?” Interestingly, the 10 tracks on Hypnagogia haven’t been made with an album in mind. Instead they are the result of a process over a longer period of time. According to Thomas, at times Delsin had to choose from up to 60 tracks. It speaks to the vision of both, label and artist, that Hypnagogia feels like a cohesive journey that was produced in one go.
Published December 14, 2018. Words by Sven von Thülen.