With previous releases on Delusions of Grandeur, Voyeurythm and more, UK producer Ben Sun delivers a gorgeous blend of deep textures that hearken back to the golden era of NY and Chicago with his Distant Messenger EP on Razor-N-Tape. On the A-side, Transmission has all the vibey goodness of an early Strictly Rhythm record, while Sable Sun scuba dives into Larry Heard territory with lush pad swells and squelching acid lines. On the flip, the emotive motion of Tremors builds through hypnotic arpeggiated synths, a slow-rolling bassline and crystalline melodies, and the record finishes in proto-house territory with the Peech Boys era Larry Levan-inspired Red Light. This EP may wear its influences on its sleeve, but it looks (and sounds) classy as hell.
We had a chat with Ben just before the new EP dropped…
Please introduce yourself to our readers..
I’m Ben Sun. I make music and sound for the purpose of dance, meditation and escape.
Tell us where you are based and where you are from?
I currently live / work / make music in a warehouse space in Limehouse, bang on the river Thames just east of central London. I came to the city from my home country Australia back in 2005.
There is clearly a sound that is Ben Sun. How would you define that sound?
I work with a limited number of core instruments (usually 3 synths, 2 drum machines and an MPC), each has a distinct role… so it’s usually quite raw and minimal. They are mostly analog and I use a valve summing mixer, so I’m aiming for stuff that sounds thick and warm, with a bit of cut-through from a digital FM synth and some nice outboard FX units.
Who are the artists that have inspired you over time?
Ah, the list is infinite and always growing. To name just a small few that get me fired up about making music, I would say… Patrick Cowley, Lil Louis, Severed Heads, Mike Francis, Los Hermanos, Madlib, Mr Fingers, James Mason, Q Tip, Alan Parsons, Four Tet, Gary Bartz, IG Culture, Haruomi Hosono, Drexciya, Pharoah Sanders, Manuel Göttsching, Anadol. I guess I’ll stop there!
If you had a pick a genre to ‘listen’ over everything else, what would it be?
Ha, jazz of course. Style aside, it’s a philosophy of music that’s based on inventiveness so there’s always something new to discover. Besides it covers most modern music, at the root.
Why did you chose to work with Razor-N-Tape to host your new release?
I’ve known them for many years, we’ve seen each other grow and develop, and I know they really care about what they do – and it’s all for the love of music and spreading good vibes.
Talk us through the EP a little
It’s ultimately a house record, but within that frame… The opening track ‘Transmission’ has a kind of jazz-funk rhythm section with some spacey synth polyrhythms layered in, along with a bit of disco glitter. ‘Sable Sun’ is a musical conversation with my friend Jon Sable; there’s some deep dubby grooves, lush textures and almost acid lines. ‘Transmission’ is house music as simple and warm as I could make it. ‘Red Light’ is definitely inspired by that stripped-back, late night sound you hear on certain Man Friday or Paul Simpson records – congas, bass, loose freestyle chords and a big delay.
This release is for lovers of ….
Damn this is a hard one for me to say. I saw one record store write that it sounds like a cross between Dream 2 Science and the Pet Shop Boys more melancholic moments. The guys at the label hear an early Strictly Rhythm vibe, even some West End style proto house. If you like any of those you’ll probably get along with it okay!
If someone wanted to get to know your taste, what album should they listen to?
Lil’ Louis & The World – From The Mind Of Lil Louis. Whichever side you flip it to – Dance or Romance
Where should we listen to this EP and what should we be drinking?
I think each track has it’s own moment… I’d say eyes closed in front of a nice speaker with a glass of Your Favourite Thing, but I’ll try to play the game:
Transmission could work as the sun dips into the horizon behind a Mediterranean beach, with a salty margherita… Sable Sun flooring the gas along a coastal highway, crisp Autumn night, I’d advise a spliff a fizzy water… Tremors has the energy for a peak time opener under a XXXL disco ball, let’s have a mezcal or a chinotto… Red Light probably late night, when the dance is deep in the cut, glowing and sweaty, don’t give a fuck. Icy cold beer that gets handed around.
What you got coming up in 2022?
I’ve got an EP coming out with London’s Phonica Records this Summer, can’t wait to let that one loose! Currently finalizing an LP with Razor-n-Tape, might be late in the year – but in the meantime I’m trying to sharpen a live show and record some new work. Looking forward to regular radio sets and events over at MFFM (minorfigures.fm) – and coming to spin wax with some lovely people wherever they’ll have me.