056 - r beny
r beny is the performing alias of Californian based musician Austin Cairns and, delightfully, our latest guest in the Métron Mixtape series. I first encountered Austin’s music through his excellent youtube channel whilst diving deep down a rabbit hole of modular synthesis videos (a world well well detailed in this Pitchfork article). That discovery led me to his Bandcamp page and, eventually, to Saudade, a limited cassette release for one of his favoured labels, the Belgian imprint Dauw. Saudade, beny's most recent solo record, is a spectacular showcase of ambient sound design, brimming with gorgeous sonic haze and waves of lush, complex, white noise. It's by no means unmapped musical territory, but Cairns confidently cuts his own path filling the release with his own identity, atmospheres and melody.
When I reached out to him about recording a mixtape for this series he was keen to focus on his bread and butter - modular synthesis. Here he has put together an hour long mix showcasing his preferred creative outlet, with synthesisers at the heart of almost every track, and all available through bandcamp, it’s a collection of some of his favourite producers and modular peers including YouTube ‘stars’ like Lightbath, Emily Sprague and Ann Annie.
The final product is an autumnal feast packed with fuzzed out ambient soundscapes, nostalgic twinkling melody and glowing electronic synthesis. As the nights begin to draw in here in Northern Europe, this might help keep you a little bit warmer.
I spoke to Austin about discovering modular synthesis and why his YouTube videos are so popular . You can read the full interview beneath the artwork.
Hey buddy - thanks so much for your mix I really enjoyed it. Can you tell us a bit more about the tracks you selected and the goal of the mix overall?
With this mix, I wanted to highlight the amazing work of artists I both admire and consider my peers. The common thread is primarily the use of synthesizers to create music that moves me in some way.
These are all tracks from albums that can be found on Bandcamp. I highly suggest checking any of these artists and releases out.
How did you get into music and when did you start working with modular synthesis?
I have been involved with music for most of my life. I grew up with musicians in my family and I played guitar in bands throughout my teens and twenties.
I only got into modular synthesis about 3 years ago, sometime in mid-2015. I had actually quit playing guitar and music for about a year, before first discovering a passion for synthesis in late-2014. With my background in guitar, I was drawn to hardware synthesizers for their tactility. The discovery of modular synthesizers was kind of a natural progression from that.
I liked the idea of being able to build a modular synth as an instrument customized to fit my workflow. The open architecture and patching workflow made perfect sense to me, it was a natural fit. I think my music has benefited from working in this format.
It may just be my ignorance but I’ve perceived a growing interest in ‘modular’ work and gear - I seem to see more and more people working with these kind of set ups - would this be accurate and why do you think that is?
There is definitely a growing interest in modular work and gear. I think that stems from a growing interest in hardware electronic instruments in general. I can’t say for sure why this is.
I would guess there are a few reasons. One being the want to get away from using a computer for music making. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to make music, just an observation. Another reason would be accessibility. I think it’s easier to get into hardware gear now. There are more options and there are cheaper options. This goes for modular, as well. But maybe this is all symptom of it becoming more popular?
Maybe it’s just that people like blinking lights.
When did you start your youtube channel and why do you think these style of videos are so popular? It may just be my impression rather than the reality but it seems that your work gets far more love and attention, a larger audience when presented in this way when compared to bandcamp & traditional music streaming/listening platforms. That’s really interesting to me and I wonder what drives that?
I started my YouTube channel in mid-2015. I think these styles of videos are popular because they kind of break that barrier of mystery between the performer and instrument. While these types of videos don’t necessary show off exactly what the performer is doing, they presented in a tangible way that makes it seem like anyone can do this type of stuff.
It also adds another layer specify to the music. If someone is looking to check out modular music, the first place they will look to check it out is YouTube.
With a growing interest in your music how do you decide which labels to work with, and how to release your music?
I tend to prefer to self-release my own music. I’m lucky enough to have the resources and know-how to make that happen. I like having my hands in every step of the process. I don’t see many reasons why I shouldn’t, as long as it’s tangibly possible or if I’m given a good reason not to.
In the cases I have worked with labels, it’s usually because I’m such a fan of the label and their artists/releases, or I have a previous relationship with the person running said label. I’m more open to this possibility in the future.
Are you working on a new record at the moment?
I am wrapping up work on two new records. One will hopefully be out in the fall, and the other sometime next year.
Can you recommend us some stuff we should be listening to at the moment?
Beyond the artists in the mix, these albums are currently getting heavy rotation:
Michiru Aoyama – Brilliant Days
Mary Lattimore – Hundreds of Days
Marcus Fischer & Simon Scott – Shape Memory
Helios – Veriditas
Bell Mountain – Tertiary Colors
1. shipwreck detective - afterglow (intermission)
2. hainbach - voices from a future past
3. paperbark - never knew
4. tom hall - only the hunted know
5. nathan moody - slab
6. emily a. sprague - dock
7. ioflow - slow trails
8. lightbath - arise for celebration!
9. jogging house - phantom
10. shipwreck detective - bedroom eyes
11. hark madley - friendship 7
12. flohr - interference
13. ann annie - valley textures
14. r beny - takoma
15. trevor vincent edmonds & sean curtis patrick - owen sound
Words & Pictures by Jack Hardwicke