Exclaim!'s Top 10 Improv & Avant-Garde Albums Best of 2016

Ben Lukas Boysen
(Erased Tapes)
If the staggering brilliance of Ben Lukas Boysen wasn't widely heard on the first studio album released under the Berlin-based composer, producer and sound designer's own name, 2013's Gravity, it sure was on Spells. Where his debut came out on the well-respected hardcore electronic imprint Ad Noiseam, Spells was Boysen's first album for Erased Tapes, and he seized the opportunity to work with arguably the world's leading contemporary classical music label by producing a neo-classical masterpiece.
The album's merging of sophisticated, meticulously programmed piano pieces with processed, live improvisations of drummer Achim Färber, cellist Anton Peisakhov and harpist Lara Somogyi (and all mixed and mastered by Nils Frahm) makes for a grandiose and atmospheric sound, deeply stirring and dramatic yet relaxing and delicate around the edges. Its compositions build on the ambient, minimal elegance of neo-classical greats like Jóhann Jóhannsson and Max Richter, and traverse the same foothills as the slowly swelling, profoundly haunting trips of doom-jazz giant the Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. Spells is the sublime lull of being warm and dry on a cold and grey afternoon, the beauty of movement when one is compelled to sit still. Simply put, Spells is spellbinding.
Alan Ranta