Moonlets / Ben Q Best

moon_benThis split release from Hel Audio is divided, more or less, into one part glitchy ambient and one part experimental quirk. Moonlets and Ben Q Best are both Utah Valley electronic musicians, each offering up a half-hour’s worth of material. Of the two, I prefer the Moonlets “side,” if only because it’s more straightforward. Andrew Aguilera heads into hushed, glitchy spaces right off the bat and spends most of his stretch laying down easy grooves. The first couple of tracks take a minimalist/techno-trance kind of direction, with long drones offset by beats and layers of electronic warble. It’s trippy and dreamy, particularly on “Current Ripple,” where at times it’s almost like the funkiest test pattern ever, a steady tone peppered with a beat. On “DA14,” we shift into a full-on, brain-massaging drone that gets an extra, effective layer of hypnotic goodness from a simple repeating descant. It’s also the longest track at a whopping five minutes, and nicely showcases what Aguilera can do with a little extra time. (Tracks here range from just under two minutes to just over four.) It’s not all drone, however. “Natural Satellite” is a fairly straight-up downtempo piece with a thumping beat pushing its way through misty washes. “Depart” overflows with a speedy, bubbling sequencer line matched with a slowed-down beat and lazily rising pads. All in all, a nice laid-back listen with just enough energy in just the right spots.

The difference between the two sides of this release, and why it might be better served in its cassette format than a digital release, really hits home when you go from the soft close of Moonlet’s “Telos” into the more sonically tangled spaces of Ben Q Best. While the first track, “Seancing With Ben,” isn’t too aggressive at first, coming in on concentric spirals of sound, it finds its way there by the end of its 90 seconds, unfolding into a churning wall of sound. This heads into the chop-and-slash approach of “To Anglicize This,” and now we’re firmly in experiment land. Best’s work is described as lo-fi, so it’s got that raw, pulpy feel to it. That part is fine with me. It’s the sharp, unexpected edits that don’t work for me, that sense of semi-controlled randomness. I find the diversity of Best’s sound set interesting. Guitars, tape loops, bits that feel like found sound drop-ins. But don’t put me in the middle of the shiny, arcing sounds that form “Roofaller” and give me something that really catches my ear, then snap it off like a dry twig at what feels like a totally arbitrary moment. Best gets my true attention when, beginning with “Smiling Omnivert,” he suddenly softens up the sound. There’s still an edge to it as it swirls around, but the jarring moves seem to take a backseat in favor of gelling the sounds together. “For Based God” is a guitar-based piece with a folksy twang. Echoes and reverb play around the backdrop. The ending brings us back into that slice-and-dice territory, but here it feels like it works better–an accent rather than a mindset. I find the last 15 or so minutes of this easier to take than the first 10, and those last 15 make me reasonably glad I stayed with Best’s approach. This “side” will sit better with those whose tastes are a little more eclectic.

Available from Hel Audio.

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