Benn Jordan
Pale Blue Dot


4.0
excellent

Review

by rogerdiscoversherpes USER (10 Reviews)
May 6th, 2010 | 42 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Grab your space helmet, but no need to pack any uppers - Benn Jordan keeps ambient interesting.

Being late to the Benn Jordan game, I have the advantage of approaching Pale Blue Dot as somewhat of a tabula rasa. Indeed, I only got my hands on some of his work as The Flashbulb – namely, Flexing Habitual and Soundtrack To A Vacant Life – at the exact same time as I did this album. The happy consequence of this is that I am stripped of any romantic bias towards a particular stylistic era of Jordan's. On the other hand, though, I'm also all the poorer for not being privy to Jordan's complete musical narrative – something which is often essential for judging progress and evolution. Hence, I'm going to examine Jordan's maiden pure ambient outing in isolation from his greater body of work and compare it, instead, against other albums of a similar ilk. While this runs the inevitable risk of pissing off the fanboy hordes (who, I'm sure, have snotty responses loaded and ready), such risk is not sufficient to stop me sharing my thoughts on what, at the end of the day, is one of the best ambient albums I've ever come across.

Apparently, Pale Blue Dot is a tribute to Carl Sagan, everybody's favourite astronomer-cum-sceptic. What we have here then – if the track names and cover art didn't tip you off already – is yet another space-themed ambient album. Zeit, Apollo, Planetary Unfolding, The Magnificent Void; there's something about space and ambient music together which just seems right. That being said, as beautiful and relaxing as ambient soundscapes unvaryingly are, and as compelling and provocative the unsolved mysteries of space are, halfway through even the best ambient albums (space-themed or otherwise), one generally has to force themself to carry on paying attention to the general loveliness of it all. While, as the name suggests, that's pretty much the point of ambient music, Benn Jordan nonetheless manages to defy the laws of ambient somniferousness on Pale Blue Dot, producing an album with that little something special to separate it from the competition.

What Pale Blue Dot presents then, is something rather unique in the ambient world – an album that caters to short attention spans. How does Jordan manage this? Well, firstly, the longest track on the album runs for just over four and a half minutes. That's like a grindcore track by genre standards. Secondly, and far more profoundly, Jordan manages to produce subtle melodies and synth textures which are intriguing enough to keep the listener interested for the entire album's duration. This is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he does so without breaking any traditional genre conventions. There's minimal percussion, it stays all dreamy pads and ephemeral space tinklings, the album pulses and swells; Jordan uses exactly the same toolbox as all that have come before him to produce a piece with a distinctive identity and charm. So strong in fact are Jordan's songwriting skills, that you can even point to individual tracks such as "Leaving Earth" and "A Distant Earthrise" which can be enjoyed removed from the broader context of the album – a rarity in the ambient world.

While I could go on heaping praise on Mr. Jordan for Pale Blue Dot, its important to qualify all this shameless sycophancy. All these claims of album character and attention-grabbing are very much made within the broader context of ambient music. If you think ambient music is boring in the first place, Pale Blue Dot certainly isn't going to change your mind. You'll probably still be put to sleep, you'll just dream of more awesome space adventures (or whatever it is that yanks your crank). For fans, however, Jordan really has created something to demand your attention and maximise your enjoyment. He's taken his considerable – if somewhat attention-deficit – songwriting talent and focused it in on a new frontier to create something which is simultaneously refreshingly novel and yet comfortably familiar. Space has its best soundtrack yet.



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user ratings (78)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
pizzamachine (4.5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Ghostechoes
May 6th 2010


1353 Comments


An album tribute to Carl Sagan? Yup, I am definitely interested in this. Great review.

NOTINTHEFACE
May 6th 2010


1653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This album is the greatest ambient album ever made. Yep, I said it.

rogerdiscoversherpes
May 6th 2010


34 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Ghostechoes.

I wouldn't argue with you NOTINTHEFACE. It's definitely up there anyway.

pizzamachine
May 6th 2010


12571 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Beautiful.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2010


15050 Comments


his 2009 release is really good

rogerdiscoversherpes
May 7th 2010


34 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I haven't heard it. Must definitely get it.

scissorlocked
February 3rd 2011


3511 Comments


definitely gonna listen to this

his latest albums are great

Digging: Traumprinz - All The Things

WashboardSuds
April 8th 2011


5020 Comments


sounds very interesting, I always heard a certain spaciness to Flashbulb music, sounds like a trip to me

iFghtffyrdmns
April 28th 2011


7047 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

about a third of the way through this now and it sounds EXACTLY as I thought it would.
go figure.


(which, for the most part, is awesome/cool/enjoyable/eerie)

Deathcar
May 23rd 2011


1534 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Possibly my favourite ambient album.

hypnoticbob
October 5th 2011


1 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I find this album to be an absolute masterpiece. I mean this sincerely. methodical; beautiful. truly epic.

Rev
October 11th 2012


9436 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Forgot how fantastic this is

demigod!
January 18th 2013


44715 Comments


this is nice

Digging: Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright in the End

bach
January 18th 2013


12905 Comments


Yeah, It's good.

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

demigod!
January 18th 2013


44715 Comments


sounds like space

bach
January 18th 2013


12905 Comments


I want a physical copy of this so bad.

Spec
January 18th 2013


27188 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love this.

bach
January 18th 2013


12905 Comments


Sunrise in Blue skies is the best thing ever.

demigod!
January 19th 2013


44715 Comments


i really love the textures on These Solemn Stars. so chill

can't wait to hear this stoned

bach
January 19th 2013


12905 Comments


I love this so damn much. Due in part to my love for the universe. I'd love to hi-jack that starship thing that carl sagan uses in the cosmos and just fuckin' cruise endlessly through throughout the cosmos.



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