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Benjamin Croft – Far and Distant Things (2021)

Far and Distant Things

Mixed at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, “Far and Distant Things” features eleven tracks that are all unique interpretations of progressive jazz fusion. The tracks feature countless well-known names from the music scene: you can hear Chad Wackerman on the drums and Mike Miller on the guitar, and these are just a few of many important musicians playing. When Benjamin Croft’s imagination and talent were combined with these musicians’ skills, the result was an album that stands out amongst new releases.

1. Overture (1:14)

The album’s first track opens with a powerful trumpet melody. Once other instruments come into play, the track continues and builds up with the trumpet line as its focal point, ultimately creating a dramatic entrance to the rest of the album (hence the name Overture!).

2. Far and Distant Things (6:13)

The following track starts with the repetition of the same note on the keyboard, creating an ominous tone that’s embellished by the ticking in the background. The entrance of the guitar and the drums clears the air, and as the song picks up its pace with some jazzy chords, the track’s atmosphere is established. Several intervals deserve special recognition: on 1:35 where the bass and guitar have a solo in unison, and the strong finish.

3. Brock (4:47)

The flute gives the third track a whole new feel and compared to the previous track, this song sounds much more like improv jazz with its several layers that are playing different free-jazz rhythms and fusion chords one after the other. At one point, the bass gets into the spotlight and then the keyboard performs a solo, followed by the flute again, which soon completes the cycle of the mid-section. Since there are many different sections (which kind of sound like a collage) in the song, it gets a bit tiring towards the end.

4. SAD (Spatial Awareness Disease) (6:22)

The start of SAD throws the listener off as if they have interrupted the natural flow of the song by entering in the middle. However, the trumpet changes this atmosphere quickly as it enters the scene and stays in the foreground. This calm atmosphere is apparent until the synthesizer enters and changes the tone once again. The smooth notes from a wind instrument leave their place to more sharp sounds here, which creates a nice variety. The drum solo performed near the 4:30 mark is another point of recognition in the album–the solos throughout the album, in general, show how it’s deserving of a place in the jazz fusion scene, and the usage of irregular time signatures remind the listener of the album’s prog-rock inspirations.

5. Tudor Job Agency (6:25)

With shorter-lasting and more repetitive chords, the fifth song of the album has a more joyful air. The improv solo by the keyboard in the second minute adds to this feeling, and the guitar connects the track to the general theme of the album (as it plays through riffs with similar tones throughout all songs.) Just like the previous song, the synthesizer adds to the texture in the next minutes, although for a short time. Also, praise to the drumming towards the end –that is accompanied by the synth once again– serves as a cathartic section that ends the song.

6. S&R Video (5:07)

S&R Video highlights the sounds coming from the crash cymbals and the synthesizer: although all sounds are strong by themselves, they do not clash and make noise but rather play in harmony. There’s a repeating pattern for the first one and a half minutes, and the keyboard enters to silence the other instruments in the background for a while. The track picks up the pace when the guitar plays through some more dynamic riffs, and the buildup caused by these riffs is interrupted by the bass at certain points. There is an underlying structure that appears to the listener, but the song does not, in any way, loose from its creative improv nature (a comment that may apply to several other songs on the album.)

7. The War Against Loudness (6:17)

The track opens with grand, atmospheric instrumentation with short guitar licks that provide texture. The track is mainly made up of a keyboard part and a more prominent guitar counterpart, which consistently interchanges, smoothly soloing over the chord progression and the fast-paced drumming. The track can at times sound a bit repetitive, but small embellishments such as the integration of a rock-inspired guitar riff and syncopation in the guitar part alter the main flow just enough to make it interesting to the ear.

8. How Not to Win the Nobel Peace Prize (6:17)

“How Not to Win the Nobel Peace Prize” has a complex and jazzy chord progression that is accompanied by the keyboard and trumpet parts, which continue throughout the song. The track induces an interesting feeling: the keyboard and trumpet lines are usually stable but at certain points in the track, there are moments of dissonant harmony and syncopation that create instability, making the listener sit on the edge of their seat. Near the end, there is a breakdown where this uneasy feeling reaches a conclusion simultaneously with the track, which is interestingly satisfying.

9. Thank You, That’s What I Wanted To Know (5:35)

Compared to the other tracks in the album, the ninth track has a simpler chord progression and feels a bit less jazzy, which is not necessarily negative. The track has a calm yet uplifting feel due to the two prominent instruments in the track: the trumpet and the piano. The trumpet parts are especially upbeat and energetic while the piano parts provide a soothing, reserved feel. The track fluctuates between these two, effectively combining the two feels.

10. St Gandalf’s (1:55)

The tenth track begins with crashing, fast-paced drumming and continues with a relatively aggressive keyboard melody compared to the other tracks in the album. The keyboard sounds very digital and artificial, which gives the track’s sound a special texture and makes this short track stand out.

11. The Cashectomy (6:25)

Style-wise, the final track is quite different from the rest of the album, in the sense that it has very rock-like elements embellished all around. The characteristic, mellow jazz sound is still preserved in this track but it is accompanied by elements such as distorted guitar solos and the intro section that make this track unique and interesting to the ear. The track definitely provides a very satisfying conclusion to this intricate, beautiful album.

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