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Bensley ‘Muskoka’ album walkthrough

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As we mentioned last week, Bensley has been busy for a while, locked up in his studio creating his second album ‘Muskoka’. The hugely anticipated LP has been really well received and for very good reason. If you’ve heard it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The talented Canadian producer has dedicated a lot of time to this album and has used his classically trained musical background to make ‘Muskoka’ a must for fans and DJs catalogues. Featuring 12 tracks this album shows why he is one of the most original and exciting talents in Drum & Bass.

We really appreciate the time Bensley has taken to walk us through the tracks on ‘Muskoka’, giving us a look into how he created this formative album.

Muskoka artwork

Radio Statica

The basis for this came about when I was inspired by the recent insurgence in the Gesaffelstein / Rezz style. However, rather than conform to the aggressive single-note basslines that are characteristic of this genre, I wanted to do it in a way that was more musical and expressive of my style. I gave it a theme by dropping in different radio sounds and tied it all together with a second half comprised entirely of different old-timey radio commercials chopped up to the beat. That was the most fun part!

One Last Chance ft. Skyelle (Remix)

I first planned to include the original version of this song on the album. However, by the time the album was nearing completion, its release was far too distant to justify its inclusion. To get around this, I decided to make a more energetic dancefloor version that would be specifically for the album. I stripped the original of everything but the essentials (vocal, saxophone, etc) and built an entirely new track around it. The result features weighty drums, a crunchy bassline and many other flairs that help it radiate dancefloor energy. Now it goes off in my sets!

Kilauea

During a trip to Hawaii, I started messing around with an idea that involved several different island-inspired instruments and sounds. I started with ukulele, lap-steel guitar, birds, ethnic vocals, crashing surf, and more. The challenge I gave myself was to use these sounds in a way that translated onto the dancefloor. Elements such as jungle-inspired bass sounds and chopped up breakbeats for phrase endings helped me do that.

Do It Again ft. Armanni Reign

This was originally a very old idea from when plinky-plonky melodies were on the rise in Drum & Bass. Tunes like The Prototypes ‘Pale Blue Dot’ and KG ‘Woodblock Riddim’ really solidified my love for the sound, and I gave it a shot myself. It wasn’t until much later that my production skills matched my vision, and I ended up with an idea that was ready to send to the label. Upon doing that, Andy C suggested that it would be well-suited for an MC vocal in the style Q-Tip, so I brought on Armanni Reign to get the job done right!

Arpeggio Deluxe

A while back, I bought my first analog synthesizer, the Moog Sub-37. I experimented with it for hours and hours, learning all the ins and outs. It wasn’t long before I had my first happy accident: I began playing chords with the arpeggiator on and ended up with a very dreamy melody. Upon changing the arpeggiator’s sequence order, I ended up with a harmony that layered perfectly. With this strong foundation, the rest of the track fell together effortlessly, complemented by the swung triplet groove.

Muskoka

The idea for this one came about when I was on the dock in Muskoka. I set the scene with an intro filled with recorded loon calls and the sound of me starting up the outboard motor on our little tin boat. The rest of the track to follow was my attempt at adapting elements of 140bpm breakbeat to suit my own style. The second half of the tune went through many different forms, including jungle and dubstep drops. However, I found that doubling down on the old-school breakbeat/garage style suited the atmosphere surprisingly well!

Secrets ft. Sarah Carmosino

When I’m back home in Toronto, I listen to a lot of local radio in the car. Ever influenced by the music I listen to, I decided to make a tune that taps into the electro/indie-pop sound that’s so prevalent around these parts. The first element I made was the bassline, which immediately created a sense of groove that was easy to write the rest of the song around. I introduced old record scratch samples, tape machine clattering, aggressive pitch-bending and other sounds to emulate somewhat of a lo-fi feel to the track. Umberto Ricchetti (the creator of my artwork) referred me to Sarah Carmosino, who slayed the vocals in the world’s shortest recording session! Her writing and impeccable singing qualities tied the song together perfectly.

Under The Sunshine

Inspired by the big band sound of James Bond themes, I tried to create a track that brought strings, brass ensembles and acoustic drums into the context of a modern Drum & Bass production. In order to best achieve this, I decided to focus on the half-time groove for the majority of the track while jumping into light bursts of DnB for impact. It wasn’t until I brought Charlotte Haining on board did the track really start to feel complete. Her uplifting, Paloma Faith-esque vocal performance injected a positive feeling into the tune that I had never even intended!

In Darkness (Parts I & II)

Having just seen the Blade Runner sequel, the soundtrack struck me in a way that made me go straight into the studio and experiment with eerie synths and long reverbs for hours. The result of this was a haunting 3-minute atmospheric intro featuring the longest progression I had ever attempted. I was then faced with the task of converting the existing ideas into Drum & Bass in a way that did the epic intro justice. I ended up with an ambitious 8-minute journey that I’m extremely proud of.

Hard Times ft. Emer Dineen

Inspired by the creative diversity that an album affords, I had to write a track that embraced the spirit of contemporary jazz. I created the main theme with a piano, modulated bassline and a chimey lead. However, the idea quickly exploded into a multi-chaptered ode to jazz which includes a swing section, saxophone solos and interview quotes from my favourite saxophonists: Charlie Parker and Paul Desmond. To top it off, I had the talented Emer Dineen write and perform the top-line, something she did extremely well in this style.

Trillium

For a while, I experimented with writing music to film, and ‘Trillium’ was one of the first products of that effort. Similarly with ‘In Darkness’, the real magic takes place in the intro. I wanted to create a long-winded journey that slowly builds through the addition of elements like the plucked melody, string ensemble and wobbling synth pad. I think my core inspiration shows itself most vividly in the second half of the track, channelling elements that one might hear in the soundtracks for Mr. Robot or House of Cards. I finished off the track with a down-tempo section that builds on the quarter-note groove heard in the wobbling synth/strings. Also, I sang on it.

Bensley’s album ‘Muskoka’ is out now on RAM Records. Check it out below and grab a copy of the album from here

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