The cheap, cheap tapes just keep flying in to my inbox, in part thanks to Aidan Hanratty’s Bandcloud weekly email (subscriptions are free). Hanratty tends to dig up the more experimental/ambient side of things, so if those pique your interest please give it a look. Anyway… Hardworking Families is actually just one guy named Tom Bench. Bench’s Worse Than A Stranger is equal parts wall noise, eerie, gentle and imposing. As you listen to this, you feel that you’re engaging in this sort of surrealist voyeurism. You hear creaks, conversations, foot steps, engines and the noises of everyday life we usually just tune out. From the sound of it, Bench might not even be using any instrumentation – it sounds like it’s all sourced from the field. At the end of the synopsis, don’t drone alone even writes, half-humorously, “someone buy him some real instruments, am i right?” Listen to Worse Than A Stranger below via the Bandcamp player and see what you think of it. Cheers!

The Details

hardworking families is the project of one noise boy called tom bench. a living venn-diagram of brighton and leeds, tom used to tell anyone who would listen about his favourite abstract music; now he eagerly creates it, developing different sounds, characters and aesthetics inspired by what he loves and what he can’t stand. in performance, he has critiqued the transgressions of power electronics and acted out jokes about indie rock clichés – he has also misunderstood the telos of chairs and stapled reverse contact mics to television sets playing reruns of scrubs. here he is, though, alive and droning: Worse Than A Stranger sees tom stretch out for two longform pieces on two very different hypes.

on side a of what he would tell you is a ‘45rpm cassette’, tom walks downstairs to pre-established feedback and starts tinkering, the sounds of the house’s creaking floorboards entwining with growling delay. the drone eventually distances itself from tom as his no-input mixer starts to actualise – it breathes in bitter rhythms, eventually spitting them out like bad medicine. our tenacious artist eventually worms his way back in, gently dovetailing the drone, and finally using one of his classic trash instruments – a bike bell without the bike – to ring out a final suite.

the textural rawness of “Byantwood Road, Washington street” is pretty gruelling, though tom would probably give you his most surprised ‘oh?’ face if you told him so. he offsets it with “Paternoster”, a quiet and fertile piece of sound. recorded in sheffield university’s arts tower, a building constructed with an open compartment elevator, the piece shifts through wobbly strands of everyday life; it absorbs fragmented conversations and shuffles through the sounds of people hurrying off to their academic pursuits. tom makes the rushed, anxious movements sound merely figurative – they’re somehow slower and more dreamlike in this recorded format, creaking with kindness. the piece resolves on the sound of tom somewhere else, tapping at a printer on further travels through yorkshire’s loveliest city.

someone buy him some real instruments, am i right?
released 17 June 2015

recorded in london, sheffield and brighton.

particular thanks to dan, duncan, matthew & annie.

tom bench played and used bicycle bells, feedback, floorboards, microphones, captured conversations and more.

christian harrop provided original artwork and tom bench provided a photo.

thank you, bill callahan.

Price $4.67

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