The Flashbulb – Love As A Dark Hallway

March 17th, 2011 by Eric Loose

Benn Jordan, as communicated over his last three albums especially, is a bit of an eccentric, an extremist of the electronic genre as I know it. Look at his past few albums. Kirlian Selections wasn’t just diverse, it was a breathtaking medley of styles and influences. Soundtrack To A Vacant Life wasn’t merely interesting, it was enthralling, captivating; and Arboreal wasn’t simply active, it was teeming with energy. Excuse the obvious hyperbole, but The Flashbulb, Jordan’s artistic moniker, calls for it.

Through his musical schizophrenia, I feel I’ve gained a pretty clear picture of Jordan, as he toils away on composing abrasive guitars with choppy piano licks and soft auras (or whatever). Listen to his past work for me– you can picture him hunched over equipment, instruments galore, mind racing, crafting that monumental precision of his, can’t you? Not anymore, you can’t. On Love As A Dark Hallway, it may appear that Benn Jordan has lost his edge, at first, and somehow misplaced his fervency and focus. Instead, I think his latest LP is simply a relaxing exercise for the artist that’s put his heart and soul into every second of his over-an-hour-long records, and felt more comfortable letting loose a little on Love As A Dark Hallway. The quality suffers a little, sure. But still, his virtuosic compositional skills shine through, as Jordan expands even further into jazz territory, while not forgetting to let his teams of instrumental flourishes do the talking (yelling) now and then.

Upon copying the files into my iTunes, I couldn’t help but notice the songs were tagged as “jazz,” amidst the sea of “electronic” that it was surrounded by. I can’t imagine anyone taking those tags completely seriously, but it does mark a paramount stylistic change, for Jordan. Noticeable upon the opener, jazz, which has always been an important influence in Jordan’s work, takes center stage. “Wake Up, Gladiator” conducts a pleasant, medium-paced jazzy stroll before erupting into a melodical electronic flourish. So is Love As A Dark Hallway— soothing, reassuring. Throughout, from the timidness of the piano in “A Baptist Church In Georgia” (juxtaposed against its title, especially) to the lack of range that spans most songs, this is surely a different Flashbulb than the one that wouldn’t let a half track go by without treating listeners to a hailstorm of starts and stops, peaks and valleys.

It’s not that he’s lost his skill though, nor his propensity for creating a distinct, emotional aura. It’s simply less strong than before. And while it’s certainly less endearing and immediately awe-inspiring, Love As A Dark Hallway subtleness creates its moments of splendor in more muted ways than before. Take, for instance, the peak of the album. Yes, the peak. Because The Flashbulb no longer is dishing out crescendos like raindrops in a downpour. This is why, after Jordan lulls listeners into concentration with a few somber tracks near the end, the finale of reverb-laden, volume-driven eruption at the end of “We Are Alone In A City” is so damn satisfying.

There’s a few outliers sprinkled throughout, also. Most notably, “Let Me Walk You To Your Honda” is a spunky, wavering, wobbly track that’ll catch listeners off guard with its catchiness and, frankly, carefreeness. For a Flashbulb record, this is a somewhat new sentiment, and is somewhat conflicting with the artist I thought I knew. Still, it’s not unwelcome in breaking up what tends to become a, dare I say it, almost monotonous record. This “monotony” is relative though, in comparison with the ludicrous array of sounds and influences incorporated into his past work. So with Love As A Dark Hallway, my caricature of Jordan has changed significantly. He dabbles more freely in jazz. He picks his head up from his computer and lets loose a little. He records an LP less than 40 minutes long. So, what Benn Jordan loses in ambition, zealousness, and diversity, he wins back in proving he can still craft a virtuosic, focused record devoid of those elements.

Rating: 3.5/5

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