Welsh-born and now Berlin-based producer Benjamin Damage has propelled himself into the dance music consciousness over the last few years, most notably on collaborations with fellow Swansea man Doc Daneeka that include the single ‘Creeper’ and the acclaimed album ‘They!Live’, both released via Modeselktor’s 50Weapons label. Their ability to bring a level of serenity to club bangers has won them as many fans in the studio as it has in the clubs, and the German honchos were so impressed they invited Damage on the Modeselektor tour and have now brought him back to 50Weapons for his first solo album.
One of the principle draws of ‘They!Live’ was the innovative new ground the duo found in their blend of house, techno and bass music. Here that synergy finds particular clarity on ‘010x’, which paces in with the purposeful intent of a full-on-techno-banger that’s about to work through a number of punishing gears, but instead cascades into a break-down laden with classic house chords that reach back to Chicago, before continuing in a delightful hybrid of melody, warming depth and rolling bass – its techno instincts softened by the more affecting house elements, the rumbling bassline broadened to a more modern UK suitability.
Other tracks lay within more familiar techno boundaries, ‘Delirium Tremens’ and last year’s single ‘Swarm’ reducing the melodic aspects and operating at the higher intensity you would expect to find on a Berlin dance floor in full flow.
While these more driven tracks are perhaps the most striking on the record, for the main part ‘Heliosphere’ employs Damage’s stylistic interaction to create a seamless flow of blue atmospherics, often characterised by a feeling of general haze that is kept crisp and clear by the quality of production. On ‘Spirals’ for example the beat is nothing but a slow, flat thud, hitting at the back of washed-out interference and a creeping synth loop that is manipulated with guile and subtlety, the track sounding like the field recording of giant space vehicle slowly trekking across some distant planet.
Damage uses sweeping melodies to tame the urgency of his techno structures, keeping a lid on the potential power of his basslines and thus allowing the harmonic elements plenty of space to play while still backing them up with a meatier footings. Although he moves between tracks of varying intensity and tempo, the continuity of style laced between them makes for a cohesive record of depth and maturity, rising above the ‘collection of tracks’ criticism that befalls many electronic artist albums. The fact Damage has achieved this on his first solo LP speaks of his producing talent and the thoughtful direction he has developed for himself.