Ben Sommers – Avocado Chip (360 Degree Music)


The lineage of book-writing musicians runs deep and long, from John Lennon to Patti Smith to Nick Cave and beyond, and London’s Ben Sommers continues that grand tradition. On his debut album Avocado Chip, he weaves a unique and at times eccentric vision of mythical lands and strange characters, ones that can be revisited in his book of the same name.

Eclectic and ambitious from the start, Avocado Chip begins with aplomb, racing through genres and sounds at breakneck speed, setting the listener off in a whirl of ideas and imagination. Opening track ‘A Town Called Starving Jane’ is chaotic freak-folk at its best, summing up the album title’s marrying of the organic and digital with the lyric “and the next thing you know they’ll be sticking a chip in our arms.” It’s unrelenting and tinged with the surreal, and never lets on to what’s coming next – the semi-R&B hush of ‘Sapien Express’.

Worlds apart from its predecessor, it talks of dragons and fighters in a Dungeons & Dragons meets Justin Timberlake via Larrikin Love coalition; a bizarre combination that shouldn’t work but somehow does. And that’s where Sommers’ genius lies – twisting the unexpected into beautifully weird gems that should make your skin crawl but instead do quite the opposite. It’s sometimes to his detriment though, as other parts of the album feel in danger of not holding up that thrill of the unknown.

Indeed, when Avocado Chip approaches anything resembling normalcy, it tends to falter slightly. ‘Submarine, Submarine’ may be gentle and tranquil but gets caught in no man’s land between welcome breather and drop of pace. ‘Every Flower Dies Someday’ feels a shade too long without the rattling speed to make it flash by whilst ‘Hillary, Oh Hillary’ just about squeezes enough interest into it’s four and a half minutes.

All in all though, Sommers’ first record is more hit than miss – any record that closes on the  1-2 of the fuzzy psych-rock of ‘Devil’s Day’ and lush build of ‘Digital Sunrise’ is well worth a listen – but sometimes his adventurousness and musical intellect carry him away. With a bit more time and, perhaps, focus, he could creating an album as completely compelling as his literary work.

Release date: 03/10/2011


Read the first 15 pages of Avocado Chip here.

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