Review Summary: "Opus At The End Of Everything"?... Did the more accurate "Worthy Listen For Longtime Fans But By No Means A Highlight In A Stellar Discography" not quite have the same ring to it?
It’d be an easy comparison to call Benn Jordan the Philip Glass, Mountain Goats or Boris of electronic music because of his prolificacy- there just doesn’t seem to come a time when the man is not making music. Most of the time, this is a very good thing. His work ethic has bestowed listeners masterpieces like the evocative album that spanned a million emotions, Soundtrack To A Vacant Life
; his spacey, ambient effort, Pale Blue Dot
; and the diverse and dynamic Arboreal
. In terms of his discography, Opus At The End Of Everything
(not quite appropriately named, but who can’t admire the aspiration?) is more of a revert back to Vacant Life
and its many personalities than it is to Arboreal
. I assumed this would elicit a more successful record considering I consider the former The Flashbulb’s absolute greatest, schizophrenia and all, but Opus
falters in more respects than it astounds (at least, relative to what we should expect from the artist that’s brought us works like Kirlian Selections
and Vacant Life
). Longtime fans will most likely be arrested by yet another successful venture, but Opus
is neither an opus nor is it a standout album.
Thankfully, Jordan ditches the heavy jazz themes that were too overwhelming on Love As A Dark Hallway
in favor of his specialty- a diverse array of styles and instrumentation. The Flashbulb’s signature seems to be attempting to convey a diverse array of strong emotions all within a long, dense album by use of many tools, and Opus
is a perfect example of this. Well, the plan is... the execution is lacking, somewhat. Bar a few facets, there’s nothing particularly new on Opus
and Jordan still runs the gamut from ambient piano arpeggios to jazz and classical inspired chords, to breakbeat and even, gasp, use of Autotune. Throughout, the production is nothing but pointed and crisp- a factor devoted listeners of The Flashbulb have surely come to expect, at this point.
Perhaps the longer runtime is a contributing factor, but it feels significantly less focused than we’re used to hearing from the Flashbulb. This doesn’t detract from some of the more stupendous singular moments on standouts like “The History Of Rain” and the closing pair, but points must be docked from the totality. This is most evident in the transitions, I find. The breakbeat style of “Terra Firma” doesn’t meld fluidly into the piano of “Good Luck Out There,” and moments like this are especially disappointing considering how convincing and smooth his transitions have been in the past. More than anything, it’s a shame to hear such expectedly-adept and mesmerizing moments broken up by a lack of any overwhelming themes or moods, throughout. On Opus
there’s not quite the “blank slate” feeling one gets from the best ambient albums, but there’s also not much offered in terms of heart and soul. Without any bright light to guide it, Opus
’s best qualities fall into the dark spot of a very skilled artist creating an album that shows off this dexterity while managing to be largely unmemorable along the way.
All in all, it’s reassuring to hear that an artist as prolific as The Flashbulb is nowhere near running out of ideas or recycling old ones; but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder how much better of a product Opus At The End Of Everything
could have been had Jordan carved some of the fat off of this hunk. What it gains in creativity and diversity (not that these had ever been issues, whatsoever), the album loses in precision and that factor
in his best works that engender complete and total absorption. While definitely not The Flashbulb’s opus, one also hopes (and knows, most likely) that this isn’t the end of everything music-related for Jordan, either.