Benjamin Finger / James Plotkin / Mia Zabelka – Pleasure-Voltage

On Pleasure-Voltage, electronic music producer and composer Benjamin Finger collaborates with Mia Zabelka and James Plotkin to create a striking musical collage which continues the eternal battle between harmony and dissonance. The record itself shifts like sand: reverberating piano and steel-fenced electronics pull the listener into a sonic whirlpool, while sighing vocals hint at a human presence, although the absence of any discernible language entertains something more alien. Stylistically, Pleasure-Voltage has its roots in electronic music, but it displays more than one face, making it a dense and complex record.

For the most part, the record is tonally heavy, encased in black metallic, although the emergence of a piano drops that weight instantly. A blood-red segment will disperse to reveal a clearing, seeping in like an image from a strong dream. Added all together, the music becomes kaleidoscopic in sound and design. Revolving patterns, circular bass lines, looping vocals and gritty textures are all integral parts to the running of the machine, but a cool piano, as clear as a reflection in a sparkling pool of water, provides harmonious phrasing and remains in the middle. Being both an essential part of its sound while separating itself from the other elements, the piano creates a wonderful amount of space and calm, even while being bookended by unpredictable electronics. In the quieter sections, the piano is left alone, an isolated island, its dying echoes offering a vague form of friendship.

Dynamically, the electronics, the amplification of raw noise, and the occasional crunch of a distant breakbeat rhythm are more than capable of going full throttle, but the music cruises in chaos, holding itself back from unleashing a fatality. Because of this, it doesn’t need to be turned up to eleven; its power is in its restraint.

The disembodied female vocal is a spirit. She hovers into the headwind, into the ballooning cloud of reverb and the dusty glow of an ill light, wrapped up in the unsettled breeze of an electric guitar. She sways in the growing storm, a light, lilting sound contrasting the crushing weight of the music’s titanic body. The loops are cyclonic, and the voice becomes enwrapped in its tornado, never settling on one particular area but being pushed wherever the winds blow. The piano tries to calm the gathering, but it’s like trying to stop the inevitable, because the dissonance rears its head again. There’s something ‘off’ with the electronics – like something from a horror flick, they distort and grow in menace, shining like cold steel. A stronger harmony breaks through on the B side. It isn’t erased this time, but declares a full-blown victory. The trio end the battle, but the war’s just getting started.

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