Ben Watt: Guinea Pig
Buzzin' Fly

With one's attention so focused on the output of the Buzzin' Fly roster as a whole, one could easily overlook the fact that label head Ben Watt's personal output has been rather modest in recent days. In fact, it's been three years since he issued a stand-alone single but he's hardly been idle: in addition to overseeing the label's releases and advancing its profile, Watt contributed “Just A Blip” to 2007's Buzzin' Fly Volume 4 comp and also remixed Figurines' “Silver Ponds.” But truth be told, writer's block set in around 2005 and only recently, with a re-tooling of his working methods, has music again begun to flow. Part of the solution involved Watt deciding to create using no more than an Akai sampler, vintage synthesizers, and a basic sequencer. All of which brings us to “Guinea Pig,” a new track Watt road-tested in its instrumental form at Miami WMC 2008 and which thereafter was fleshed out by the contributions of London singer Julia Biel.

The tune starts cautiously with a bass drum pattern but Biel's crystalline voice soon floats into view, cascading over the thumping kick drum until, at the one-minute mark, the snare boots the tune into dance mode with a funky house pulse that thrusts the cut forward. Coated with swelling synth waves, the groove surges ever more syncopatedly until it's joined by swathes of jazzy piano-and-vibes samples and Biel s soft croon. “Guinea Pig” ultimately comes across as a more-than-credible piece of work though it's hardly equal to “A Stronger Man,” for instance, Watt's fantastic collaboration with Terence Trent D'Arby (singing under the name Sananda Maitreya). The Guinea Pig 12-inch also includes an instrumental version which, though decent on its own terms, is rendered largely superfluous by the definitive vocal treatment; a second composition rather than a stripped-down take of the A-side would be this listener's preference.

December 2008