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Mr Ben & The BensBella Union
Released: 10th July 2020
|CD||£10.99||Pre-Order||Dispatched on or before Friday 10th July 2020|
|LP - Limited white vinyl||£19.99||Pre-Order||Dispatched on or before Friday 10th July 2020|
After the celestial adventures of Mr Ben and the Bens’ previous issue, band-
leader Ben Hall finds all the magic he needs on earth with his new album, Life
Drawing, released 10th July via Bella Union and available to pre-order here. On
2019’s Who Knows Jenny Jones?, Hall plotted the story of a young, shy Pitsmoor
woman who returned from an alien encounter newly armed with serious disco-
dancing know-how. Life Drawing, meanwhile, looks closer to home for its
inspiration – Sheffield and thereabouts – for twelve brightly plaintive, character-
driven vignettes, set to warm, acoustic, indie-folk-pop backdrops after its
predecessor’s close encounters of the synth-driven kind.
Vibrant invitation to start exploring arrives with album opener ‘On the Beach’,
where Hall’s tender vocal and dreamy organ provide simpatico companions to a
wistful tale of a visit to a beach charged with memories – one of many evocative
locales on the album. ‘How Do You Do?’ brings to mind Belle and Sebastian at
their dreamiest, while seeding enviro-metaphors – suns and moons, storms and
tides, rain and snow, “Whatever the weather may do” – that figure strongly
throughout the album’s every-day rhapsodies.
A “cloudy thread of narrative” is present, Hall explains, but this time it’s left open
for listeners to map routes through it. “The idea with the title is that the songs are
character sketches, and their stories coalesce in a place that has a bit of all the
towns in the North of England I’ve lived in. Bits of myself in the stories came out
unintentionally, so I’d like it if the listener could find those semi-truths from the
songs and place them into their own experiences.”
For Hall, Life Drawing is a rich, rewarding step forward in a still-young career.
With the exception of Zac Barfoot on drums, Hall is the sole player on the album’s
lovingly layered recordings, his first in “a proper studio – analogue gear, proper
piano”. David C Glover and Paul Gregory also contributed as, respectively,
producer and mixer at Tesla Studios, while the band’s live line-up is fleshed out
by Barfoot, Lauren Paige-Dowling (bass) and Tom Diffenthal (guitar/keyboards).
Members of the close-knit Bingo Records community, the bandmates co-habit in
Sheffield and moonlight in each other’s bands – “A nice family vibe,” notes Hall.