November 1st 2019
If you’ve ever been on tour then you already know that it’s nothing like what most people think it is. Outside of the adrenaline fuelled and ecstatic release of the performances – at most a couple of hours per night – you actually spend most of your time waiting for something or somebody. You’re confined to small spaces: lobbies, hotel rooms, planes, buses and back stages. The food is random and sleep is scarce. And you have very little to no control over just about anything outside of your own playing. Opus 1, Benj Hartwig’s debut EP, is a visceral, all-in response to all of the above.
After years of incessant touring, playing other people’s music and spending most of his days on the road, the man finally found a crack in his schedule. He packed his equipment and set up a remote recording studio in Marienheide, a small village right outside of Cologne, Germany. For a total of three months all he did was revisit unfinished songs and remixes, and spent his days recording and experimenting with production techniques and the art of sound design. In other words: he committed himself to a serious regiment of music therapy. This is how Opus 1 was born.
This moody 4-song EP is an exploration of the possibilities of a modern, hybrid Avant-Pop sound. The songwriting is both catchy and sophisticated. Experimental enough to interest the art crowd, but still radio–friendly. It references some of the most interesting tropes in current production, drawing on elements from Trap, Neo-Contemporary / Classical, Indie, as well as several different shades of modern Electronica. The arrangements are minimal with a strong “cinematic" touch, and they tend to fuse acoustic instrumentation with analog synths and drum-machines. The sound is spacious, breathy, but also tight as fuck – up there with any contemporary Pop production. The dramaturgy and underlying tension found on these songs is definitely evoked by the skillful use of instrumentation and arrangements, but the emotional center is defined by a colourful cast of talented vocalists: Miss C-Line, Luke L and two other artists who remain uncredited. Each one of these performers owns their song, crafting it into a personal statement of sorts, never the less the EP still plays like a highly cohesive body of work. Needless to say, this compact collection of tunes is a perfect introduction to a new voice in songwriting and production.
Benj Hartwig is a Zürich based multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. His music is an idiosyncratic and elegant synthesis of Avant-Pop, Left-Field Electronica and Neo-Contemporary.