Peter Bennett (or Bensley) is well and truly a newcomer to the Drum and Bass scene, having been signed to RAM Records without any prior releases and having released only one song (Fandango) and one mix (for BBC 1Xtra) up until now. It’s a bold move to release an album with next to no experience or hype, but Bensley’s unique situation and sound makes an immediate debut album the best course of action. By far.
Next Generation is cohesive and establishes an obvious style for Bensley within the first few songs, that he sticks to throughout the entire album even though not every song has a fast Drum and Bass beat. It’s atmospheric and organic – Nocturne, To The Moon and Rain Dance all sound just like you’d expect them to from their names, and these along with Aftermath have more chilled and slower beats than the others. Bensley also uses some of the freshest and minimal snares that you will hear in Drum and Bass, with claps, cow bells and clicks all being used (in Fool’s Gold, Fandango, Next Generation and Cold Storage). This also makes the beats in the other songs seem harder, and makes Manta’s beat sound especially good as it’s the first fast Drum and Bass beat with a solid snare since Nocturne, five songs beforehand. The songs on the album all carry a similar, liquid-atmospheric vibe and are of a similar quality (very high), however there are three important songs that are worth looking at individually, without taking away from the other seven songs on the album.
Wildfire is a great album opener as within just one minute it introduces you to Bensley’s unique Drum and Bass style, with a fresh beat and catchy lead synth that has you moving before a gritty bass takes over, suiting the song’s somewhat liquid vibe. Bensley takes the gritty bassline up a level for the second drop, before doing so yet again to reintroduce the lead synth. The sub bass is the centrepiece of the breakdown, before the song is cut down to the beat and finishes. It gives a great first impression to the album and Bensley as an artist.
Fandango is a masterpiece – I’ve already written on it but it’s just so good that I had to do it again. Whenever I hear it I lie back helplessly with a smile on my face and let the sound wash over me, releasing any tension or stress that I might have. Then the beat comes in and it gives me no option but to move to it. The synth is emotional, and the left-of-centre effects applied to the drop make it work so well. The bassline complements the synths really well too, but this all pales in comparison to the half-time section after the first drop. It’s a stroke of genius that makes an already brilliant song that much better. Essentially, it’s a must-listen and one of the strongest songs on the album.
Next Generation is the song that started it all. It’s the one that Bensley originally sent in to RAM, and it’s the one that got him signed. You can hear why on the first listen. His jazz training shines through in the form of beautiful piano melodies and string arrangements, accompanied by bass stabs similar to those in the beginning of Fandango, before it develops into a classic liquid sub-bassline in the style that Bensley has now well and truly established. It’s relaxing, beautiful and interesting yet just passes by like it’s any other part of life, and as such is the epitome of Bensley’s sound.
Bensley has shown that he is well and truly a part of the Next Generation of Drum and Bass, with an album that impresses you with his production talent, and when that becomes a non-issue impresses you all over again with the composition, beauty and emotiveness of the pieces that form the journey of the album. Next Generation is very cohesive and isn’t just a collection of songs – it was made for a purpose, that most likely being to establish a style and make his mark on the Drum and Bass scene. And this album certainly will. You can buy it from the RAM store here or on iTunes here, where you can also preview the tracks while we wait for a stream to become available.