By Rick Shithouse
Following the Ben Businovski experience over the last year or so has been a very engaging little journey as his sounds have evolved and matured. His first album release, Gotanda's Maserati, marks a destination point on that map that is populated with a specific kind of synthscape that Businovski has refined beautifully well in the lead up to its release.
Having personally met Ben and been an instant fan of his wonderfully dry wit and astutely keen mind gives me a bit more of a window into this record but the strength of the tracks and how they're used to describe scenes and times should be vibrantly obvious to everyone through out.
The sound is a mix of styles and thematics that goes for a minimalistic and soft aesthetic that hugs corners rather than stabbing sharp angles. The music is hugely Italo flavoured but it's a certain vintage of Italo that Businovski channels and then relocates into a Japanese space. The fact he works this particularly niche little combination into a full length album is a true sign of his creativity and ability to work to a specific theme while still exploring its many facets.
The primarily early 80s aspects of Italo Disco are taken from steamy discotheques and reborn in tall Japanese office buildings. Stripped of their upbeat and of so delightful chintzy-ness, the Italo flavours are given aloof and distinguished presence amid swells of slowly descriptive rhythms and percussion that are actively bustling and energetic while still retaining a decisive direction.
The first track sets a massively visual stage that Businovski then expands upon and tells contributing stories around. An extracted, long establishing shot of a seemingly motionless concrete, steel and glass behemoth in the still of the night, lit to enhance its monolithic presence. The music slowly unveils its intentions as a light turns on in a window; just to prove you're watching video and not just a still image. Endless corridors of empty offices, unlit, uninhabited and the only place and time some kind of solace and peace can be found for someone who's life and market is on the brink of collapse. 'Catalogue Chic' describes a way of life that's a dream for nearly everyone viewing it but the idealism captured in its glossy pages becomes a hollow untruth. A close up of a contemplative face, staring out of the window on the 25th floor, staring out across a city he doesn't even know. A haunting melody casts a cool breeze of melancholy through the still empty building. Dream or nightmare? Depends which side of the glass you're looking out from.
The sense of beauty mixed with feelings of isolation and disconnection run throughout much of Gotanda's Maserati's tracks. The title track is again haunted by some spirit that refuses to be forgotten while light synth melodies dance with lightly choreographed steps. The Asiatic nuance that Businovski merely hints at through the leads makes the atmosphere just become piquant enough to know one is definitely in Japan but not strong enough to bludgeon the listener into something more tritely stereotypical.
This subtlety is what holds the album together and allows the tracks to blend and overlap with each other as different aspects of the story move around the different people and places. The camera pans slowly across darkly lit, mirrored walls as glasses reflect and refract the light through exotic liquid colours. 'Drinks At Ginza' ushers in a suave sophistication to the scene as a driving and danceable groove brings in a wider shot of motionless men in pristine suits broken by slowly gyrating feminine shapes and colours moving as one with the beat. This track is definitely one of my favourites on the record as it has such an understated coolness to it that eschews so many classic 80s lifestyle promises and fantasies you know you'll never experience first hand.
In numerous tracks Businovski just changes the recipe slightly to allow a new location to be explored and often at critical times in the story's juncture. 'Market Corrections' follows the story the next day as the once empty office building is now a hive of worker ants desperate to extract as much as possible from the trading futures that tick and scroll by in a manic fashion. The electronic machinery used is echoed in the melody with with numbers switching by the minute amid implored shouting. The ending of this track with its plodding and deliberate pace gives a sense of exhaustion to the proceedings which adds that final piece of humanity to the mix. The companion piece to this track, 'So Much Business!' switches floors in the same office building and cuts a less frenzied groove around the office workers whose roles are far less visceral than those in the previous piece but are no less intense.
The romantic side of the album comes in two parts as the new office girl catches our protagonist's eye unexpectedly and an emotional warmth begins to rise up through the music and the starkness of his world gets given softer colours and smoother edges. The enticing first interactions of 'Right Beside You' finds that electric spark igniting desires once forgotten in the face of a career. The heart once cold now pulses with heat and passion. Melodies intertwine like holding hands as fingers hold and embrace tighter. A yearning grip tightens around hers as they become hypnotised by smoothly seductive synths. He never stood a chance and she never saw it coming.
'Sweet Nothings' continues this into a traditionally schmaltzy wonderland of romance that any watcher of Asian cinema will instantly recognise. Soft focus, bloomed colours, walks in the park, huddling under a single umbrella, him spilling his wine cooler accidentally while trying to look suave, her cutely losing her hat while playing on a child's swing in a playground. These delightfully out of context scenes are a staple of any romantic interlude and the score is perfectly upbeat and innocent with a pure naivete that's sugar synth sweet.
But the haunting ghost of the financial market that controls both their lives can't be contained for long. The nightmare of 'Neoliberal Dreams' rolls into misty view as the pressures of his career threaten to crash down. Dark shadows against boardroom walls, apologies for failure met with unfeeling eyes, the tie that begins to tighten like a noose and the night sweats and fitful, recurring dreams torture his subconscious when she's not there. He is consumed by this and he's been part of the system far to long to break away. The score to these scenes is so beautifully constructed and conveys feelings and fears in equal measure. It's undeniably dark yet full of human frailty.
'Floating Point' is the final act of Gotanda's Maserati and although it doesn't finalise the fate of the characters we've been following it does pull out for a wider perspective. The whole office building is viewed in timelapse as the employees teem in at the opening of the market and leave at its close, the night comes in and the activity ceases. But at night, as all the lights go out one at at time, one remains on on the 25th floor. The passing of hours in seconds lets us see the tiny outline of a man at the window. Motionless, staring out over a city that he doesn't even know. The night passes and the sun lights another day with brightly sparkling synth melodies bringing in a new day and then fades out to black as the employees once again repeat their work day once again.
Ben Businovski's Gotanda's Maserati is presented on his Bandcamp page here in the usual array of digitally downloadable formats. I loved every minute of this album as Businovski, like all descriptive and passionate producers, creates a wonderful soundtrack to a specific place and time. The melodies are always captivating and the subtlety of his songwriting and ability to extract such rich nuance from his structures is entrancing and intimately detailed. The mix of musical 80s cultures feels genuine and true as well, and over the course of a full album that's an achievement in itself. Gotanda's Maserati comes very, very highly recomended from Synthetix.FM.