Ben Miller: Ben Miller’s Room (Living Records, 2020)

June 30, 2021 at 7:25 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Ben Miller: Ben Miller’s Room

Last year, avant-rock legend Ben Miller (Destroy All Monsters, Sproton Layer) recorded a monthly podcast series, with each episode being around 10 minutes of stream-of-consciousness prose, narration, foley, sound design, and music, mostly excerpted from recordings of Miller’s various projects in the past. Basically, they seem like brief one-man radio plays. Miller introduces many of them by informally welcoming you into his room, then he proceeds to talk your ear off about mysteries and mysterious people, ending many of them with a reminder of when the next episode was scheduled to premiere. The first part is about a government worker named Cody, and after hearing four pieces about him, I can’t quite tell if I’m closer to understanding who he is, but maybe that’s not the point. Miller’s enthusiasm for storytelling is what drives these mini-dramas, and his homemade way of processing voices and adding sound effects (typing keyboards, squealing modems) adds lots of charm and keeps the pieces busy and constantly moving. The title to the second part, Mystery of the Useless Clues, tips you off that its contents are filled with lots of dead ends and non-sequiturs, but there’s some intriguing descriptions of bar scenes accompanied by passages of dusky jazz pieces on part 1. The second part incorporates music a bit more into the narrative, from Miller’s own lopsided singing to bebop playing on the radio. From there, it just keeps getting trippier and more mysterious. Finally, On the Brink, a saga about a character named Hoss, might have the most hallucinatory, Firesign-ish sound design — Miller even goes “whew, that was topsy-turvy” at the end of part 2. At the end of part 4, Miller says “One day, Hoss remembered something… but that was another story”, which feels like the jump off for even more escapades.

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