Tabs Out | Benjamin Vraja – Anthology

Benjamin Vraja – Anthology

7.14.20 by Ryan Masteller

Sometimes treasure is real. Not the pirate kind of treasure that lies in heaps in caves on deserted Caribbean islands, known only to those who possess the right maps and compasses and things, and maybe a dash of magic or a sprinkle of prophecy, but the everyday kind, the kind that unearths itself in the cleaning out of a closet or a garage or a space beneath a bed. Well, that’s not to say it can’t be the pirate kind, what with the preponderance of obviously sunken vessels that litter our eastern seaboard, filled to the brim with Spanish doubloons or jewels or artifacts or, say, Nazi gold bricks. In fact, there’s probably so much treasure at the bottom of the ocean just waiting for scientists and explorers to get to that we could probably eliminate poverty as we know it. Now, let’s get in our diving bell and get down there! 

I got off track there a little bit. I’m actually NOT here to talk about pirate treasure, but treasure a little more within our grasp. See, some of us are already flush with treasure, even though we might not know it. I, for instance, have a lot of clearly valuable baseball cards from the late 1980s and early 1990s, not to mention my stupendous and unmatched cassette collection. I’m one of the lucky ones, completely aware of the value of my collections as historical artifacts and cultural signposts. But others, like Matt Vraja, don’t know what they have until they “clean out the family estate.” 

I’m going to avoid telling the whole story, one you can read on the inside of the Jard of Benjamin Vraja’s “Anthology.” Yes, Matt and Benjamin are two different people, I didn’t introduce a typo up there. Matt is Benjamin’s nephew, who never actually met Benjamin before his sudden death in 1996 – Matt had just heard stories of the eccentric musician his uncle had been. But one day, in 2014, he actually came across his uncle’s recordings, and in matching the anecdotes to the fascinating and forward-thinking sounds he was hearing, Matt realized he had to introduce his uncle’s work to a wider audience. 

That’s where “Anthology” comes in. The tape captures recordings that Benjamin made in the 1970s and 1980s, at various studios and academic institutions, and with various equipment. Focused mainly on synthesizers and other proto-electronic gear, Benjamin experimented the hell out of what he had in front of him, and the results are never less than fascinating. Imagine finding lost Don Buchla tapes, or recordings by Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, Wendy Carlos, or Ray Manzarek. Benjamin Vraja compositions might not fetch the millions of dollars these other big names would, but maybe that’s because he’s still a hidden … treasure. He doesn’t have to be so hidden anymore with this release, which should now be a must-have for anyone interested in early synth experimentalists. 

Honestly, though, sometimes it’s literal pirate treasure that turns up. You really never know.

You can grab this self-released beauty on Bandcamp. Edition of only 45. Truly as rare as gold! 

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