When I saw that, in the two-and-a-half-year history of ilictronix, NO ONE had done a Benjamin Diamond post, I was appalled.
After all, this is BENJAMIN DIAMOND. One-third of Stardust. Co-producer of Music Sounds Better With You. Vocalist of the "Oooh baby" that causes instant orgasms in any French House fan. And of course, the creator of "Little Scare", a remix of which is prominently and appropriately featured on the French House compendium "My House in Montmartre". If you haven't yet heard it, shame on you.
Benjamin Diamond - Little Scare (Cosmo Vitelli Remix) [click to download]
I found my own French House-itude lacking several days ago in the fact that I owned nary a Benjamin Diamond album. Not even anything from his acclaimed Diamond Traxx label. I figured, with Mr. Diamond's pure greatness his albums would be easy to find and I would experience aural pleasure throughout.
Well, all of them are on iTunes, but real gangsters don't pay $1.29 for music, so I started looking through blogs. I only found the tracks I knew, remixes of the tracks I knew and only low-quality rips of tracks I didn't know (and come on, who listens to 128 kbps audio anymore? This isn't 2001). Even the great torrential network yielded nothing. (Note: ilictronix does not condone, promote or encourage illegal file sharing because it can get you arrested, incarcerated and laughed at by all your technocrat friends who are more 1337 than you are.) FINALLY, after days of scouring the net, CD shops and back alleys in Paris I managed to secure all three of Benjamin Diamond's coveted releases. I plugged in my Skull Candies, queued up Strange Attitude and waited for the earseizures to commence.
And, then, well... they didn't. Turns out Ben's first album, Strange Attitude, trades out phased Chaka Khan samples for repetitive beats, nonsensical lyrics and, overall, trite song composure. (So basically, like every French House track ever produced. I kid, I kid.) Overall, the album is produced masterfully, with all the tools one would expect Mr. Diamond to have, but all in all is.... boring. Simply boring. Take track number six, Joyride:
Benjamin Diamond - Joyride [click to download]
From the get-go, the beats and bass are unrelenting. Somewhere in the background, a faint Vangelis sample harps on the heartstrings of Diamond's vocals, which pulsate and phase out as Diamond croons about "My sweet baby" like a horny wino. Overall, similar aesthetically to our beloved MSBWY, if not a bit more raw (see: the 1992 Euro House vocal dub at 2:30) and a bit less disco. Nothing wrong, right? Unfortunately, the rest of the album capitalizes on that formula minus any sort of charm or groove whatsoever, yielding (in some cases) six minutes of pure beat, three minutes of the SAME lyric or phrase being repeated, and little to no variation besides alternation. Even the original "Little Scare" left me a little underwhelmed.
Benjamin Diamond - Little Scare [click to download]
Blasphemy!, I thought. This is Benjamin Diamond we're talking about here. I began to wonder: what went wrong? Well, the album was produced in only a few short months on the coattails of MSBWY, after all. Benny Boy must have been burned out, forced to rush production and sacrifice quality, or worse, both. That would explain the excellent production synth- and beat-wise, but somewhat flustered creativity elsewhere. His next album, Out of Myself, was five years in the making, however. Has to be pure French touch gold, right? Right? RIGHT?
Benjamin Diamond - Let's Get High [click to download]
The above is the relative extent of the french cheese funk present on the album. Yep, acoustic guitar intro and all. Don't get me wrong, I love the track: it's an electroclash ballad reminiscent of Phoenix or the Scissor Sisters' "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'", with all the synthy goodness you'd expect from Ben (and a snare sampled from "Da Funk", incidentally--though Ben isn't the only one to do that by far). It's a sweet little ditty, but a standout on the album, and not in the good way. For the majority of this album, Ben trades his synths for the guitar; most of his tracks sound like music you'd hear in an artsy overpriced Brooklyn cafe or as the backing score to an indie film starring Zach Braff and Michael Cera. Not terrible, but extremely far removed from the sound we'd come to love (or expect).
Pish posh, I thought. Every artist has a weird transitory period; Bob Dylan did coked-up rock n' roll for a while, Madonna got sexed up for a few years in the 90s and even my goddess, Lady Gaga, got her start performing Led Zeppelin covers in dive bars. Surely though, his most recent album, Cruise Control, promised to deliver more of the electrindicity and guitar strumming. And the results were...
Benjamin Diamond - Looking 4 A Sign [click to download]
OHMIGOD. SYNTHS. AND PADS. Oh, nevermind. Electric guitar all over the place. Still some synths somewhere in the arps during the chorus, maybe. The rest of the album for me was just an alt rock blur. Again, not terrible at all--just confused. I've previously stated that I love LOVE love when artists and bands can blend the acoustic and the electronic to create a bass menagerie. But Diamond doesn't quite do that. His sound wavers variably from one side to the other, incorporating what he can into where it doesn't quite fit. Sort of like jello with fruit in the middle: I love jello, I can tolerate fruit, but put them together and all I want to do it sit there and watch it wiggle, not consume it.
Sadly the conclusion of this story is me not quite being a Benjamin Diamond fan--or at least clinging to the Ben I thought I loved. This is not to dissuade the rest of you. BenDi is a masterful producer and a Roland whiz, and in fact some of the stuff from Diamond Traxx that isn't by him is quite lovely. I'll even post excerpts from his albums in the future if you please and let you be the judge... just don't expect glory and praise from my end.
In the meantime, bonus goodies. Enjoy them without my scathing commenture. (Even though that's no fun for me, wah.)
Benjamin Diamond - These Emotions [click to download]
Benjamin Diamond - Let's Get High (Alan Braxe Remix) [click to download]
Fantastic Plastic Machine Featuring Benjamin Diamond - Tell Me [click to download]