Just when you thought it was safe to put down your headphones, here comes Ben Prunty with another album!
With the brooding industrial sounds of Dark Window still fresh in my ears, this latest work titled Fragments (coincidentally the second album released in August I’ve seen with this name) presents a compilation of electronic music recorded over an impressive eight year period.
In premise this release shares a lot in common with an earlier Prunty album called Chromatic T-Rex; an anthology that collects together material from everything including the artist’s own personal projects, cancelled video game soundtracks and previously unfinished material now remastered for your listening pleasure.
This is not to suggest that the music here sounds unoriginal however, as right from the off, Fragments shows us that it means business.
As was the case with my previous review, I feel that the opening track on Fragments is its star attraction. Indeed, Night Zen is quite a diverse number that features a delightful shift between its artist’s trademark mellow synths and some surprisingly more aggressive beats that result in quite the trip over the four minutes and fifty seconds of running time.
If you read my review on Dark Window then you might recognize this padded track length as the sort of bonus that I felt was missing from that album’s opener called Teeth; just a little bit of extra time to fully appreciate the journey that was being so well developed in the early stages.
Night Zen generates a lot of momentum from beginning to end and it’s definitely my favourite track on the album because of it. It’s a great listen and I’m looking forward to the possibility of Prunty exploring relatively heavier and more aggressive styles like it in the future.
We quickly follow up this effort with another interesting track called Little Steps which is actually a rearrangement of Giant Step from Chromatic T-Rex; an album I once described as a “jumbo pick n’ mix bag of pure ear candy.”
It’s statements like these that will eventually force me to change the name of this website…
The impressive size of Fragments stems from a fun array of shorter tracks that the album commentary (a PDF supplement that was sadly skipped for Dark Window) occasionally reveals to be theme songs or anthems for various media sources.
Tracks such as Glitch Bros. and Earth in a Jar are similarly not much longer than a minute and a half with change, but they still form a nice sojourn in their own right and it’s hard to imagine anyone having a problem with their inclusion.
On the opposite side of that coin you have tracks like Rolling Hills, Falling Gracefully and Crispy Static. These are longer and more involved pieces of music where it’s easy to see the stylistic similarity between this album and Color Sky; another of Prunty’s more “chilled out” electronic releases that gives you the impression of going on a very dream-like journey.
Half way through Fragments however you come across The Shadow– a track that very much sounds like it was accidentally left off of Dark Window! The sinister ambient pulse in this one stands in stark contrast to the rest of the album, but it does add a nice pinch of unpredictability to the compilation as a whole and will certainly delight the fans of such moodier numbers too.
Aside from that you also have the well-titled Waiting in Line at the Bank (QY70) which is a fun retro tune composed on archaic Yamaha hardware and certainly something a bit different.
Topping all this off is The Western Apocalypse which marks the welcome return of the banjo – which I’m pretty sure appeared in Chromatic T-Rex, but don’t quote me – and forms a ‘ride off into the sunset’ style of outro that caps things off very nicely.
This is a really good effort then. It didn’t take me long to get into this one and by the simple virtue of releasing two great albums with mere weeks between them, it simply shows how much quality, creativity and energy Ben Prunty possesses as an artist.
Pretty much every track on Fragments is telling of the growing legacy of his style, but the overall theme of these little shards of music coming together to form a united sound (whether that message was ever intended or not) really suits this album perfectly and hints at a little bit more depth than I first expected.
Another album, another masterpiece. Prunty himself describes this as “20 tracks of smooth synths and fun grooves, mastered to sonic perfection” and I agree wholeheartedly. Fragments is perfect for the musical explorer in all of us and comes very easy to recommend at that.