WORDS/Dominic Valvona

Artwork by Andrea Huyoff

Ben Osborn ‘Are We The Flood?’
Video/Single 24th February 2022

In the months that have passed since the last “global emergency” climate summit, in my home city of Glasgow, the far from clear solutions to this looming threat disappeared in a quagmire of crisis: take your pick the from the Omicron wave to the cost-of-living, energy and Russian invasion of Ukraine emergencies. As a prompt, the modern day renaissance man Ben Osborn offers up a timely reminder of the impending, and now almost irreversible, consequences of failing to plan and tackle an ecological disaster.

Less Biblical, the singer-songwriter, poet-troubadour, Theatre composer, sound-designer takes a both wistful and melancholic line, delivered with a considered melodic acoustic-electronic and neoclassical score, on his latest single and video. Ahead of the new “transdisciplinary” EP collaboration with his Nonostar label hub foil of the last few years Alex Stolze and visual artist Andrea Huyoff, the posed ‘Are We The Flood?’ song expresses the grief and a persuasive indictment of the politics that has ignored a “planet in danger”.

Both the enormity and absurdity of the situation is represented by Huyoff’s video, premiered on the Monolith Cocktail today. In that video a rather placid performing Ben is enveloped by screens within screens of flickers and more colourful explosive images, video games, symbols and disasters, whilst performers Anneka Schwabe and Kira Kirsch  hold up wave scenery props and interrupt a silent scream of tumult in the face of an overwhelming destructive flood.

Photo by Matthias Lüdecke

Beautifully, if tragically, described images (“We’ll be saved, if the waves rise up, over the land/We’ll build our nest on the chimney, out of driftwood and crushed aluminium cans”) are decried, yet kept almost hushed in a Leonard Cohen-like husk. Subtle wooden sounds, instruments creak and stretch and a light flurry of delicate laced notes are all that’s needed to convey the sentiment at first; only later introducing more rhythmically jazzy-swing trip-hop drums as Ben plaintively delivers the real hurt in the plumes of poisonous smoke, the debris and mud that has entombed a lifetime of mementoes.

The Oxford, now residing in Berlin, polymath continues his creatively rich and enduring collaboration with the German star, violinist, producer and record label owner Alex Stolze; once again releasing a flurry of taster “studies” singles in the run-up to a new multidisciplinary EP project of performance, video, poetic pop songs and a series of lectures on Alex’s Nonostar. Previous releases for that label include Ben’s critically received debut album Letters From The Border.

Ben is a director of the Open Music Lab, an activist-led musical cooperative and collaborative learning space for refugees, immigrants and other marginalised communities; many of which have been forced to make the dangerous crossing into Europe because of the effects of climate change. Now focusing on the greatest threat this planet has had to face, Ben poetically sets alarm bells ringing as the flood waters come crashing inland: an augur, signal that we may very well have run out of time already.

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