Desert Comb 2017
Stepping down from epic stallion, Oz-based purveyor of prog aims to streamline his oeuvre for mass consumption.
It’s one of art-rock follies: to go for large scale where short-span immediacy is required – and Ben Craven seems to know the issue too well, which is why the Australian multi-instrumentalist decided to compile his compositions that are most accessible to the uninitiated and make those cuts even more accessible by editing them to fit radio format. As a result, this collection of tracks culled from all three of Craven’s studio albums isn’t only bringing home the title of the latest, "Last Chance To Hear"; it’s also taking the previously conceptualized pieces out of original context to let the listener focus on particular moments – enticing enough to want to investigate further.
From the menacing “Critical Mass Part 2” which stitches orchestral portent to surf-rock twang, to “Revenge Of Dr Komodo” that sprinkles rumble all over patinated film, these numbers do pack a punch yet, of course, the ones that win the most in such form are the simplest creations like the pop-minded “No Specific Harm” or riff-driven “Ready To Lose” – and here’s a lesson to be learned. The closer to pure prog the less impressive the drift is, and even William Shatner’s spoken word can’t take “Spy In The Sky Part 3” beyond the pale, although acoustic lace in “Captain Caper” and slider roll in “Nobody Dies Forever” add to their cinematic adventurousness. “The Remarkable Man” proposing a romantic stroll with a specter of Beethoven’s Elise, while Ben’s soft vocals shape up a dark story before guitars stage tragedy to a great theatrical effect, the edits amount to more than mere teasers: it’s a means to overcome the aforementioned folly.
God bless the radio, then.