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2017-04-17 – FRaME (Review)

Originally published:

Ben Craven: Last Chance to Hear (2016)

17th April 2017 Olav Martin Bjørnsen

Australian composer and musician Ben CRAVEN first appeared back in 2005, initially releasing music as the one man band Tunisia, but subsequently opting to release future albums under his own name. He has four full length albums to his name so far. “Last Chance to Hear” is the most recent of his these, and was self-released in the spring of 2016.

It doesn’t take all that long to understand that Ben Craven has a certain passion for progressive rock, nor that his possibly greatest sources of inspiration lies in the more mainstream oriented parts of that musical universe. His material is easy on the ears and the mind, and he appears to revel in the creation of moods and atmospheres to a much greater extent than to create complex structures, challenging arrangements or to push the boundaries of music to the borders of one extreme or another. Distinct melodies, flowing instrument motifs and arrangements revolving around harmonies rather than disharmonies is the order of the day here, and the sound is open, warm and inviting throughout.

There are a few different flavors of the genre explored on this production, but the kind of material that dominates are compositions I’d describe as orchestral-oriented, ambient flavored compositions that resides firmly inside a symphonic progressive rock tradition. Some traces of Genesis here and ELP there can be found, albeit not all that often, what is more often the case are creations without a clear and distinct nod to any of the well known giants really. Subtle orchestral effects and floating keyboard layers combines with careful guitar embellishments and occasional elegant piano motifs to form subtly dramatic creations with ambient tendencies, relatively gentle affair but with tension, drama and the odd firmer detail here and there that adds nerve and emphasize the careful dramatic nature of the material. Pink Floyd fans will find a few of the more gentle guitar solo runs familiar, but on occasion Craven shows that he isn’t a stranger to the joys of hard rock either, with a few forays into areas of a harder edged and firmer general expression. There are also some exceptions here and there, like the rockabilly meets Genesis charms of Revenge of Dr. Komodo, or the delicate, melancholic piano dominating final track Mortal Remains.

Those fond of atmospheric laden, cinematic progressive rock should find Craven’s most recent studio production “Last Chance to Hear” to be a generally appealing production. Symphonic progressive rock fans that enjoy ambient and orchestral details combining in landscapes with occasional similarities to the likes of late 70’s Pink Floyd appears to be to be something of a key audience for this CD.

My rating: 8/10

Track list:
Last Chance to Hear Part 1; Critical Mass Part 1; Critical Mass Part 2; Spy in the Sky Part 2; Spy in the Sky Part 3; The Remarkable Man; Spy in the Sky Part 1; Revenge of Dr Komodo; Last Chance to Hear Part 2; Mortal Remains