The handheld clips shot at Ben Bennett’s live shows depict a man unquestionably depraved. A victim of his own creative vision, the Ohio-based artist is portrayed scraping chairs across the floor with bare feet, stripping down to his underwear with a cardboard tube pressed to his lips, squirming on the ground with a metal cylinder between his legs and rasping through some makeshift horn. All of this is realized while exploiting an unsystematic array of tools that formulate a repertoire propelling persistent noise against an etching metallic quiet, which is captivating for two reasons: firstly because it throws up difficult questions concerning the value of the work at stake; and secondly because the artist is uncontrollably absorbed by his own freakish conduct. Throughout each performance, Bennett appears to be in a magnificent trance. He doesn’t know what is going to happen next and neither does his perplexed audience; he has to feel his way around whatever potential the objects around him inspire.
The crux of Bennett’s output is therefore formed through his anomalous showmanship and in the resourceful nature of the instruments he tailors. If there is “value” to be found in his art, then these aspects surely make for a sensible starting point. Recycled objects and household items are transformed into contraptions assembled for a purpose unknown to the performer until the very moment he drags them before baffled onlookers, inserting them into an orifice or smashing them with an unrelated implement. Such instances of universal obscurity add to the queer web of noise that makes the resulting sound so riveting from the perspective of the audience, which is why collating the assault (it is an assault, by the way; the bulk of these tracks are fucking torrential) into an album is risky; the weight attributed to public display in this case is immense, regardless as to whether or not the artist has chosen to perform inside a cardboard box.
Spoilage allows for some distance to be created in the space separating performance, instrumentation, and sonic output, though complete segregation is hampered by descriptions attributed to the artist’s deviant arsenal: “fishing line bow,” “wheelbarrow,” “mason jar ring with latex glove stretched across it” — such depictions can only perpetuate intrigue, despite their humbling accuracy. One can’t help but wonder exactly what was being used to create that rippled bass echo on “What if you just got rid of your records and stereo equipment?” or that maniacal screeching on “Born atop a Hubbert curve.” The sounds Bennett produces incorporate a range as vast as his imagination but as narrow as the dimensions in which he allows himself to work; a trained drummer, he fuses an interest in acoustic drum patterns with a background in jazz and free-improv, which, combined with an uncompromising fixation on the instruments at hand, locates the sounds somewhere between monstrously punishing and tantalizingly hushed.
Presented through a gauze of disenchanting track titles, the album permits insight into Bennett’s skill as a venturesome percussionist as well as his wry sense of humor. This is acoustic pandemonium at its most inventive, and although it might be unveiled with a sugary smirk, the artist behind it demonstrates an incredible knack for providing stimulating material throughout the entirety of his debut. From the free-fall percussion of “I’ll call you when I get creamed by a motorist.” to the wrenching skullduggery of “Everything / Everything / Everything,” Spoilage commands attention and rewards patience from its audience. The tracks presented here transcend questions concerning any intrinsic value; these are gripping improv pieces that circumvent the dimensions of effort and challenge the dominance of electronic equipment in contemporary noise music. The proceeds from this record go towards Living Energy Farm, a community project that promotes sustainable lifestyles without the use of fossil fuels, and there could not be a more relevant, albeit offbeat, soundtrack for such a cause. Bennett is his own public show trial, where he participates as the judge, jury, and executioner in his own demented experiments, where the verdict procures an admiration of the strangest kind.