Dirty Knobs

(Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use)
Field Recordings from the Edge of Hell (2011), 7.5/10
Ghost Geometry (2012), 6/10
Hallow (2012), 5/10
I Am Sitting In An Infinite Room (2012), 6/10
A Disenchanted Snake (2013), 6/10
The Hermit Seeks the Stillness (2014), 7/10
Obliteration Ballads (2016), 6/10

Minnesota's home digital composer Zac Bentz started recording as Xero Products, which soon became a project of electronic dance music.

Dirty Knobs is Bentz's noise and droning alter-ego. The first four albums, i.e. It's Raining Tiny Metal Boxes (2000), The Green Attic (2002), The Trouble with Subtle (2002) and Shobute (2004) were compiled on Amusia 2000-2004 (2014).

Bentz also played drums in the Surfactants with Marcus Matthews (vocals), Brett Molitor (guitar), and Eric Anderson (bass).

The project Dirty Knobs peaked with the eight-hour long album Field Recordings from the Edge of Hell (2011), an epic tour de force of doom ambient music to rival Robert Rich's seven-hour sleep concerto Somnium. Bentz took samples, manipulated them in different fashions and slowed them down. The result was thirteen lengthy compositions that border on maniac: the oceanic wall of noise of Falling Upon the Darkened Shore (28:34); the delicate underwater decaying pulsation à la William Basinski of The Fire Horns (50:50); the dramatic cinematic million-locust buzz of The Locust Eaters (24:52), that turns into terrible galactic winds; the massive organ and vocal drone of The Monks' Infinite Machine (50:16), another cosmic symphony, this time along the dramatic lines of Klaus Schulze's Irrlicht; the humbler mournful drone concerto of A Summons (36:06), the gentle breeze of Ashfall (30:22), the neoclassical adagio Frozen Scarabs of the Shoal (18:49), the abyss-evoking bottomless drone of Beneath the Endless Ocean (30:42), the ghostly subliminal The Minotaur's Breath (21:15), the psychological and pictorial Echoes in the Steam Caves (50:28), which sounds like a slow, dark, glitchy version of Steve Roach's new age music; the solemn slow-motion organ sonata of The Wind Cathedral (43:14); the ethereal gothic hisses of A Sun that Cannot Rise (43:05); the floating vocal dust of A Lament Crosses the Horizon (52:57), one of the most touching pieces; and the sub-bass and organ duet of Dirge for 10,000 Jet Engines (55:05) with a triumphal crescendo and a pitiful implosion. Far from being static or impossibly slow-motion, most of these pieces pack a lot of action at a fast pace.

The four-hour Ghost Geometry (2012) contains seven droning juggernauts, but mostly tedious and simplistic. Opener Rotating Superellipse (31:45) is a typical offender, as are Hollow Salinon (32:19) and Incircle Projections (28:14), while the extremely dilated languor of Chrome Digon (44:32) and the infinite suspense of Arbelos Cloud (38:54) are more justified. Polydrafter Emerson (41:08) achieves slightly more dramatic effects, and Icosagon Shade (25:45) offers perhaps the most soothing and relaxed moments.

I Am Sitting In An Infinite Room (2012) is his take on Alvin Lucier's historical I Am Sitting in a Room.

This was followed by the 31-minute Higgs Boson (2012), Hallow (2012), that contains two 40-minute compositions, A Disenchanted Snake (2013), that contains four compositions, notably the quasi-industrial vortex of Behemoth's Gristmill (16:25) and the organ apocalypse of The Organ Grinder (16:52), the The Drone and the Use of the Drone (2013), a macabre 16-minute piece about drone warfare, the 16-movement Bedlam (2013), ostensibly "a soundtrack to a film that hasn't been made based on a novel that hasn't been written", the 37-minute piece of I Want to Live Inside the Sun (2014), especially the darker second part, and Trees at Sea (2014), that contains four lengthy compositions, particularly the massive droning tornado Tas002 2 but also Tas004 2 that experiments with rhythm.

His ultimate artistic statement, The Hermit Seeks the Stillness (Xero Music, 2014), contains 12 compositions, each one-hour long. Several are superficially uneventful, starting with The Hermit but also The Outstretched Arm Of A Woman Dimmed, but for example The Empty Hub lets us glimpse at the multitude of events embedded in its apparent monolithic facade. There are cases when you don't need to "deep-listen" because the dynamics speaks for itself: The Pier Mourns The Wreck is made of haunting tidal waves of gently undulating sounds in a humane timbre, Seven Hands Palm Down roams an industrial soundscape of fear-filled darkness, A Table A Vase A Struggling Flower A Closed Window exudes the romantic feeling of a nostalgic elegy, Undying Tumblenaut is an ecstatic "om", and The Stillness is, intriguingly, a turbulent state of quiet. The question, of course, is whether it was necessary to stretch them to a duration of one hour. In some cases (Men Found In Circles, He Darkles He Tincs, The Glory And The Gegenschein, Fifty-Five Views Of The Boglands) even five minutes feel too many. The music is too often more self-indulgent than creative. In the end, the other ten pieces fail to match both the emotional peak of The Pier Mourns The Wreck and the subtle pre-linguistic expressiveness of The Empty Hub,

In the middle of this avalanche of Dirty Knobs releases, the Electric Witch, i.e. the duo of Bentz and Marcus Matthews, released We See The Shapes (2014).

Field Tests (2015) was billed as an experiment of "mobile live recording". True Norwegian Black Drone (2015) sounds like a parodistic concept. He also released various live improvisations.

Obliteration Ballads (2016) contains "lovesongs by dying supermachines", notably the abrasive drone of Broken Deathless Longing, the power electronics of The Love Drains and especially Like Tears in the Acid Rain, whose requiem-like melodies surface from the apocalyptic dirty drones.

Unfortunately, Bentz started flooding the Internet with digital releases of inferior artistic value: the 25-minute A Moment of Noise (2016), Heliomori (2016), containing a 31-minute composition in three parts, the 24-hour 30,000 Days (2017), From A Vantablack Heart (2017), Do Not Let Your Kindness Be Weaponized Against You (2017), the 26-minute piece Breakdown/ Dawnbreak (2017), Mayu Swims the Snow (2019), credited to Zac Bentz, I Could Live In Dusk (2019), that contains just one 34-minute piece, SAD Sep 1 (2019), The Breakdown of Edith D (2020), plus the 25-hour "Room" series...

(Translation by/Tradotto da Davide Carrozza)

Dirty Knobs, il progetto di Zac Bentz, compositore di musica digitale di Duluth (Minnesota), registrò l'album Field Recordings from the Edge of Hell (2011), un epico tour de force doom-ambient di otto ore che rivaleggiava con lo "sleep concert" di sette ore di Somnium di Robert Rich. Bentz prese dei campioni, li manipolò in diversi modi e li rallentò. Il risultato sono tredici lunghe composizioni che confinano con la mania: l'oceanico muro di rumore di Falling Upon the Darkened Shore (28:34); la delicata pulsazione subacquea in rovina à la William Basinski di The Fire Horns (50:50); il ronzio cinedrammatico di milioni di locuste di The Locust Eaters (24:52), che diventa un terribile vento galattico; l'imponente bordone per organo e voce di The Monks' Infinite Machine (50:16), un'altra sinfonia cosmica, che stavolta segue le linee drammatiche di Irrlicht di Klaus Schulze; il più umile e triste concerto per droni di A Summons (36:06), la gentile brezza di Ashfall (30:22), l'adagio neoclassico di Frozen Scarabs of the Shoal (18:49), l'abisso evocato dal drone senza fondo di Beneath the Endless Ocean (30:42), gli spettri subliminali di The Minotaur's Breath (21:15), il dipinto psicologico di Echoes in the Steam Caves (50:28), che sembra una versione lenta, oscura e glitch della new age di Steve Roach; la solenne sonata al rallentatore per organo di The Wind Cathedral (43:14); gli eterei sibili gotici di A Sun that Cannot Rise (43:05); la polvere vocale fluttuante di A Lament Crosses the Horizon (52:57), uno dei pezzi più toccanti; e il duetto per infrasuoni e organo di Dirge for 10,000 Jet Engines (55:05) con un trionfale crescendo e un'implosione patetica. Tutt'altro che statici o lenti fino all'inverosimile, molti di questi pezzi contengono molta azione a passo svelto.

(Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use)
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