Optimism is overrated. It’s man vs machine, but it’s not much of a fight. This is the world of Furious Knell, the new EP by Taiwanese producer B E N N.
The project launches with a growing unease on opening track “Knell.” It’s not immediately clear what our fate is yet, but the track spirals deeper and deeper into sinking despair. Heavy voltage vibrates the walls as mechanical parts skitter about a massive industrial space. Assembly line bass stabs angrily alongside clanking, syncopated machinery and distant snares roll furiously until it slows down and the glittering dust settles. Anxiously clipped metallic parts and brushes meander alongside scrap metal chiming in a leisurely wind until the track picks up pace again and the new normal begins its final onslaught.
“Furious” ratchets things up with pounding distortion and icy echoes as it becomes clear we’re stuck in the machine, forced along in its agenda, which is unfolding ominously. Buzzing layers of aggressive sound build up to drums that hammer their point into our psyche. Industrial bolts and flying sparks fill the space as the occasional wails of unseen victims waft through the shadowy rafters.
personalbrand’s remix of “Knell” dispenses with all mystery and tricks, exposing the machine’s intent to annihilate clearly. Unrelenting beat repeats and rapid stabs crush the spirit as incessant clips of syncopation target every last vulnerability. The corner to the end is turned and the bell tolls, then the climax hits with towering 4×4 drums and hollow effects that cause the very Earth to shutter and crack.
B E N N got his start producing during his time in London in 2018, where he was taking sound engineering classes. He’d already been DJing but was inspired by the scene there to make his own music. “I was going to lots of gigs around Hackney, where they played hard drum, UK funky, and experimental club music,” he says. “Those genres, as well as African music, influenced my music a lot.”
He returned to Taiwan a year later and immersed himself in the scene there. He’s had a residency at club Final for two years now where he says he can express himself fully and gets to meet and work with a lot of artists. Last year he performed at the Synergy Festival, curated by local experimental club scene champion Sonia Calico, where all the producers were teamed with visual and performance artists, as well as rappers and singers. He worked with Taiwanese rapper SOWUT, which led to their expansive “FINALLY (Remix) + ALL RED.”
The digital world of that video falls in line with B E N N s integration of visual art with all his releases. “We want to create a futuristic aesthetic, not just around music, but also an image that people can look at,” he says. “We have the same outlook at our gigs, we want all of your senses immersed into the vibes.” His visual partner is the collective XTRUX, which works on all the Over My Body releases, B E N N’s record label. He also works with 7digitalpoet, who designed the cover for his last release.
B E N N’s vision of the future includes indigenous culture, and he often incorporates sounds and instruments from Taiwan’s native people. On “Oioi” he uses folly samples of the wooden harp and xylophone from the Truku people on the eastern side of the island, which he recorded in person. That track was on a compilation for 泊人ANKR, a Taiwanese project bringing music events to natural environments. He also collaborates with the trio Beat Of Kaohsiung, a local band incorporating traditional instruments from around the world like the djembe, taiko, didgeridoo, and even the modern handpan.
Although Furious Knell depicts what may be the end, you can tell B E N N is rooting for humanity. These collaborations and folly recordings catalogue what our species has done on this Earth and splice that with a future we may no longer exist in.