Ben Howard – Live & Remixed

Got a bit of a Ben Howard special for you today folks, that wasn’t meant to be a pun, honest…

As you may well have gathered by this stage we here at HMCMB are huge fans of the Devonshire singer songwriter, his album, “Every Kingdom” being one of my favourites of 2011, more about that HERE. I was lucky enough to catch him live at The Junction, Cambridge last Thursday, in a show that more than exceeded already high expectations.

It was pleasing to see just how many people had turned up, from a relatively small and by this point student-less city, to see a guy who just a few months ago was very much unheard of.  To see such a crowd was to reassure as to the universal appeal of good music shining through the shallow pseudo-dance that is often too dominant in today’s charts. Ben seemed equally pleasantly surprised by the turn out and we were more than rewarded with a beautifully personal yet impassioned performance. Highlights being his cymbal slapping, amidst the powerful instrumental breakdowns that are now so characteristic of his sound, and his effusive charm evident in responding to “I want you on a Christmas tree” with “You’re going to be a fruitcake when you’re older”.

Credit should also go to the band as a whole, seeing them live really hit home just how versatile they are.  With Chris Bond on drums and bass and India Bourne playing the cello, bass and drums it suddenly became abundantly clear just how they had managed to create such an impressive and diverse soundscape on “Every Kingdom”. Seeing Ben in the flesh only helped to accentuate the deft subtlety that he displays on the guitar and the rich texture of his voice, the whole set was deeply atmospheric and memorable.

The final song of the encore was “The Fear”, but with a twist. With a confidence no doubt inspired by the success of his tour to date Ben jettisoned his trusty acoustic guitar in favour of an electric, to unleash an even more powerful and haunting a version of his latest single. It was great to hear a different take on his traditional sound, which is clearly something Ben is encouraging with the recent unveiling of Scott Nixon’s remix of “Black Flies”.

To attempt to take on an essentially folky and acoustic track from an electronic music perspective is no easy task. Yet with patience and a careful exaggerating of the tracks already heavier features Nixon excels himself, as you can hear below. The extra layers of bass that dominate the opening serve to enhance the already dark melancholy of the piece. As the song progresses subtle wobble gives way to hectic drums, with Bens haunting calls woven deftly into the beat, the very same calls that see the track to it’s minimalist close.

Ben Howard  –  Black Flies (Scott Nixon Remix)