Benjamin Stauffer

Benjamin Stauffer

The Tears of Things

Somnimage

Walls of guitars and frenzied drum machines can build a perfect wall of goth sound, but to tear it down and get right to the heart of darkness, give me keyboards any day, the sparser and more vulnerable-sounding the better. A lot of the European groups have this idea down cold, such as Stoa and Collection d’Arnell-Andreacute. With his fine neoclassical album The Tears of Things, Chicagoan Benjamin Stauffer shows that Americans can craft melancholy keyboard soundscapes with the best of the Europeans.

Ranging from solo, vulnerable-sounding piano to enveloping swaths of synth drones and electronic percussion a la Raison d’Etre or Arcana, The Tears of Things on the whole tends towards the quieter end of the darkwave spectrum. Evoking a wide array of vignettes and visions with his complex keyboard compositions, Stauffer crafts melancholy but not morose music, suffused with a nagging sense of loss –lost souls, lost loves, fractured memories, all covered in shadows and dust.

A good example is the opening track “Loss,” with its lovely solo piano melody, slow and stately, but constantly shifting and changing, painting a vision of shadows chasing each other across the walls of your darkening room, caressing your face with their coolness like nearly forgotten memories of gentle hands that touched you once, so long ago. Or “Still Waiting,” with its pianos and synths opening the door to an abandoned room, dust piled thickly on every surface, with motes suddenly set into swirling, shimmering motion by an errant breeze and sunbeam, dancing across the room just like she did, with her gypsy skirts whirling around her, laughing and alive; then the synths strip down to just piano for a while, playing the melody from the music box she left behind to remind you of her, and finally fade away to nothing, leaving you fragile, vulnerable and very much alone.

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