Ben Zimmerman – The Headhunters
Artist: Ben Zimmerman
Album: The Headhunters
Type: Full-length album (LP)
Release date: 9 December 2016
Label: Asura Revolver
- Digital download (Asura Revolver, 2016)
- Black cassette, edition 50 (Asura Revolver, 2017)
Ben Zimmerman is a Brooklyn, NY recording artist who formally joined the electronic scene via the Software recording label with 2015’s The Baltika Years, which was a collection of curated works recorded between 1992 and 2002. If you haven’t yet guessed, Zimmerman is a little bit older than some vaporwave artists, and his earliest works were produced before many vaporwave listeners were even born. He would release another album in 2015, a full-length and an EP in 2016, and then several in 2017 – including releases on Bedlam Tapes and HVRF. The Headhunters is the 2016 full-length, and it was issued as the second release ever on Asura Revolver and the first exclusive album for the label, as the first was a reissue of Shinjuku Underground – Meditation Chamber System Overload by Subaeris (originally self-released in 2013).
The Headhunters has much in common with Asura Revolver releases by natriums, Catlights, and VHS MIDNIGHT STYLE. It is an experimental electronica/IDM album with a futuristic vibe (but not quite cyberpunk – there’s a difference). Tracks have a cleanly-produced sound although with a bit of an old-school retro vibe with the keyboards – perhaps look to “Perhaps” for an example. Each song is fairly midtempo and features a preponderance of snare-led percussion and some funktastic bass lines; “Pagina Alpha Centauri” stands out, and the title track has a galloping keyboard progression. In contrast to a lot of vapor/vaporwave, The Headhunters is almost entirely composed of uplifting and major-key melodies, which makes it the happiest (for lack of a better word) albums in the Asura Revolver catalogue.
However, this is a very busy album. Each track has multiple percussive loops, layers of electronic effects, and channel screw. “Universal Groove” features several different keyboard lines that are playing in stereo, which ends up being kind of dizzying than it does encompassing, especially when heard on headphones. This kind of engulfing atmosphere is on each and every track, which makes The Headhunters a dense listen that’s difficult to unpack in each song since it does not quite feel like any aspect is supposed to back each other. Rather, each instrument seems to play as if it’s the lead – see “He Fasted” for a good example – and this makes it difficult for the listener to focus on any particular aspect. The Headhunters would likely be more successful in its spacey, trippy vibe with a bit less going on or one or two layers and more of a background focus on some songs so that it doesn’t sound as if each instrument is competing for the listener’s attention. “All Blissed” is an excellent example of this, and hopefully it’s where Zimmerman will go next should he decide to revisit this kind of IDM/futurist hybrid.
1. Camera On – (4:00)
2. Interstellar Road Trip – (4:51)
3. Paging Alpha Centauri – (3:34)
4. Universal Groove – (6:50)
5. Disturbance in Space – (3:49)
6. Perhaps – (3:46)
7. He Fasted – (7:45)
8. Beach Front – (4:03)
9. All Blissed – (3:28)
10. Memento – (3:39)
11. Strangers – (3:39)
12. The Headhunter – (2:45)
13. The Light at the End of the Tunnel – (4:10)