Somnambule - Writing About Music

si-cut.db ~ From Tears – Beach Archive

At times the prolific Douglas Benford, aka si-cut.db, can appear overly indebted to German electronica, but closer inspection of his work reveals a degree of warmth that’s in contrast to the sturm und drang of some of his continental peers. That initial impression also belies a lightness of touch rare for an artist with such a forbidding moniker. The outer cover of Benford’s new album is also pleasingly at variance with electronica’s generally graphic fixation and features what appears to be a surreptitiously captured image of a middle class family relaxing by the sea. Judging by their attire and the silhouette of straps on sun-reddened skin these people are English. Add to this the nature of some of the titles (‘Tan Gentle’, ‘Issues? Me?’) and there’s the suggestion of an agenda of some sort at work here.

The mid-paced electronica tinged with dub that greets the listener, however, avoids any direct association with the implied subject matter: there’s no sample of arcade jingles or blare of transistor radios to be heard. Further listening begins to prompt questions: is the white noise of the percussion sampled from the wash of the sea? Can the grittiness of those glitches be associated with the feeling of sand caught between the toes (if not between the keys of a laptop keyboard)? More generally, is there a sense of contemporary Englishness about the music and could this be an abstract commentary upon the mores of Benford’s compatriot’s holidaying habits? It’s ultimately impossible to ascertain, but the interaction between music, word and text is entertaining enough and one more argument – as if one were needed – for the importance of visuals in the face of anonymising digital downloads. Although the music doesn’t extend the territory beyond previously mapped limits, it’s developed with care and a welcome attention to detail. While not necessarily making for mandatory listening, si-cut.db’s is a subtly distinctive voice whose acquaintance you’re recommended to make.
Colin Buttimer
May 2005
Published by The Wire