Album Reviews

John Bence: Love – “unsettling as much as it is soothing”

The Bristol composer returns with his debut full-length release and first for Thrill Jockey.

Since March, the events of lockdown coincided with my neighbour suffering from a nasty fall.

Unable to walk up and down two flights of stairs, the end result of this unfortunate event consisted of offering to fetch his newspaper. Every single day. 10 o’clock sharp. No messing.

The barometer of how I know he is up and about is by holding an ear to his door, where greeted with a concerto, symphony or some other form of classical music with the timbres echoing around the confines of his flat.

Where is this story going, you ask?

Guy Andrews: Permanence & [MT][NT][ET] – “a detailed history of an individual”

Eight months on and at the first time of listening to Love, John Bence’s debut full length album (and first release for Thrill Jockey after his two EPs were released on labels from Yves Tumor and Nicholas Jaar, respectively), the instant thought was, ‘my neighbour could perhaps do with a bit of John Bence in his life’.

That’s no sleight to his current tastes, either, for he arguably possesses some of the most well-versed ears in classical music in Liverpool.

John Bence - Love

The compositions Bence slices up on Love are not purely classical by any sense of the imagination. Conjured up solely from the piano, these 10 abstract compositions dispense a discordant atmosphere where there’s just enough space for someone who indulges in the pure origins of classical music to not only appreciate what Bence has to offer, but to enjoy it, as well.

Love isn’t the easiest thing to consume in 2020. After all, the Bristol composer’s inspiration behind the album includes his struggles with alcoholism and addiction.

SUMAC: May You Be Held – “like trying to escape from tangled barbed wire”

It’s not the kind of release to pinpoint any one moment. The textures are raw, they shake, rumble and echo. It’s unsettling as much as it is soothing, which aligns perfectly with the aforementioned themes. Love is to be consumed holistically, letting its entirety wash over you.

At under 21 minutes in length, Love doesn’t outstay its welcome. Bence succinctly gets his point across and what could have developed into a lengthy indulgence is instead something that could prove to be a gateway for listeners to explore the wider terrains of a classical/experimental landscape that they wouldn’t normally be prepared to.

With Love, John Bence could well be the artist some folks have to thank for this.

Love is out now via Thrill Jockey.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

3 replies on “John Bence: Love – “unsettling as much as it is soothing””

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s