Benjamin Finger: Listen to My Nerves Hum

Listen to My Nerves Hum is a selection of 11 very short but often moving blends of piano, field recordings, and vocal samples. These sonic snapshots pair Fingers’ graceful and emotional playing against more grating or interruptive elements. You’re listening to the simple piano melody of “Road to Salema,” for example, which is fine as is, and out of nowhere comes a ghostly wisp of a woman’s voice, singing for a few moments. And then gone. Or on “Año Nuevo Acid Crackers,” where the piano is increasingly interrupted by what at first sounds like footsteps, but eventually becomes firecrackers and crowd sounds. Over the distracting (or meant to distract) noise, the piano just keeps playing. Which way will you turn your attention? Finger’s structures are based on slightly deviating repetitive forms; a phrase may come around with a note out of place or played differently–just enough to pique the attention. Dissonance, both borderline and quite full-on, can be heard at work in places as well. The start of “Sevilla on Tape” pairs a jangling, dissonant and chaotic line with recordings of children’s voices and will likely test some listeners’ patience. The dissonance and augmented repetition, though, lend an interesting sense of imperfection and vulnerability. “Leaving Linjevegen” is a piece that truly captures that sense, one of the few where Finger by and large leaves the piano to its own devices, allowing the sustain of notes to intertwine as they recede. What Finger is attempting to do is square off the calmness of his straightforward playing with more challenging concepts, and in doing so creates a more active listening space. You can relax and take in his playing, but sooner or later something will shake the chair and bring you more back to the moment. It’s not a formula that will work for everyone, but between the quality of Finger’s playing and the smoothness of the overall construction, this disc may surprise some people.

It should be noted that Time Released Sound is a niche/boutique label whose focus is as much on the art of the packing as the music, and perhaps a bit more so. At the time of this writing there were only two copies of this release available, for $85 each. But for that you get, in part, “…a truly over the top, deluxe limited version form, of a hanging sculptural/skeletal bird mobile made from the parts of antique pianos. The folded and disassembled sculpture comes in a extensively modified 8.5″ x 5″ chocolate box. The box itself is collaged inside and out, with 100+ year old, educational musical strips, is painted and stamped, and comes with feet made from brass piano capstans and nuts.”  (There’s more.) Other unique releases range from $15 to $55. The site does not suggest that a simple download is available as an option.

Available from Time Released Sound.

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