I’m in a fairly unsettled mood, trying to shake off the dregs of an uneasy day, so I’m going to take things in a strictly downtempo direction, with some chakra-balancing ambient deep house … and a little reminiscing to boot. The track’s aptly titled “Fractal Dust,” and breezes our way courtesy of San Francisco-based artist Bengal, a.k.a. Ben Engelberg.
“Fractal Dust” is like a chilled-down time capsule, a flashback to when I once called San Francisco my home. I co-owned this multimedia company back in the mid ’90s, alongside four friends, and we all lived and worked in this haunted brick warehouse on Grove Street in Hayes Valley. As an aside, this is the inspiration for my Groove Street playlists, which came from my business cards of the era. The printer made a typo that added an extra “o” to Grove, making the address 444 Groove Street. Also, I’m not kidding when I say the place was haunted. But that’s a story for another time.
Back on point, “Fractal Dust” triggers the memory of those days due to the overwhelming prevalence of Bay Area ambient house and deep electronica. You could hear it everywhere, feel it in everything, if you paid attention and knew where to look. There were boat parties on the bay. Holiday takeovers of hotels like the Hyatt Regency. Visual effects and design houses celebrating their annual company “picnics” with electronic music culture. And warehouse parties, including some of my own, which served up various flavors of laid-back kaleidoscopic tunes, complete with pillows, bean bags, and densely layered analog projections, comprised of arrays of slide and film projectors on floor-to-ceiling widescreen canvases.
Bengal seems to channel this era beautifully, as if he was born of it. I don’t know enough about Engelberg’s background to say if there’s any connection or not to those relaxed times of old. But I don’t think it really matters. His music is keenly set on translating the ambient past into the progressive present, while also adding a bit of his own multicultural spin. There’s shades of Javanese Gamelan and traditional African rhythms, alongside retro ’70s analog and synthesized grooves. The electronics clear wide open spaces, offering plenty of breathing room, lulling and luring ears into transcendental states, meditative and hypnotic. And you can still dance to it.
I could easily picture a kindred spirit like Tycho’s Scott Hansen slipping “Fractal Dust” into one of his DJ sets. And maybe he has. I don’t know. But I will say that Bengal’s music serves the genre well. I’ve been letting his catalogue cycle in the background, allowing his serene rhythms to settle in my subconscious, as I’ve been authoring this post. And I finally feel at ease.
Give Bengal’s “Fractal Dust” a spin and let it wind you down for the night, morning, or whenever the day gets the better of you. I’ll start with the Soundcloud embed, since you get the whole chilled affair, followed by the requisite snippet of a Spotify embed. Enjoy!
“Fractal Dust” from the 2017 EP “Fractal Dust.”