- There are concept albums, and then there are concept albums. Benjamin Wynn's fifth LP is a bespoke wooden projector that costs $1000 and plays videos to accompany each track of the self-proclaimed audiovisual record. The idea was inspired by an "obverse box" Wynn found at a flea market in Los Angeles, which came with letters and other artifacts that told the story of obscure philosopher Jackson Sonnanfeld-Arden and his estranged grandson Henry Jackson Arden.
In his time, Sonnanfeld-Arden grew obsessed with his "unification theory" surrounding what he saw as the world's "nine pure tones." These nine tones were said to be in perfect harmony until they were misaligned during The Big Bang, and now much of modern life is an attempt to find this harmony once again. To Sonnanfeld-Arden, this obverse box of mysterious origins and its projections of happy memories was a way to recapture that long-lost harmony, and he grew obsessed with it in his old age. The whole family, in fact, was deeply affected by the box as it was passed down from generation to generation, before it fell out of their hands and into the flea market where Wynn found it.
1979 is inspired as much by Sonnanfeld-Arden's theory as it is by his story. It's meant to be listened to with visual accompaniments—even if you don't splurge on the obverse box, the album's website has a treasure trove of old photos from Wynn and his musician friends to tug at your heartstrings. But while these extras provide some neat context, the album doesn't really need them. 1979 is affecting enough on its own, with swathes of grand and gothic melodies lit only by a faint pilot light, like a vague memory you can't quite make out.
The ghostly hum of "Let The Silence Float" and the fuzzy distortion of "Addictive Yearning" are shrouded in a mournful fog. Wynn wrings a lot out of small gestures and movements, a talent likely learned from his time as a TV and film composer. You can hear it in his subtle strokes, like the quiet bass stabs in "Drink It In," or the careful drums in "The Future Never Comes," which swim with fluid grace.
An unusual choice for LA's Friends Of Friends, Wynn's LP stands out like a sore thumb amidst the music of Shlohmo and Groundislava. But it's a risk that largely pays off. Not having experienced the album's film projector myself, I can't speak to that aspect of the release, but on purely musical terms Wynn boils down some heavy themes and complex ideas into uncomplicated ambient compositions with an Eno-esque directness. And if you take the time to explore 1979's backstory, it becomes all the more haunting.
02. Let The Silence Float
03. Addictive Yearning
04. Three Cheers For Existence
05. Drink It In
06. Pathologically Bored
07. Black Beach (Tape Version)
08. The Future Never Comes
09. Midnight In The Garden With Ghosts