We all struggle with tough times now and then. Battling through a challenging period in his life, Josh Benus penned 10 original compositions under the musical aegis Glass Dove. Half-Life Wilderness speaks with daring candor and unbridled inventiveness, a cathartic path to enlightenment for the Nashville-based artist.
Illumination came to Benus on dark wings: Love shrouded by weary ennui on “Cigarette Sunset.” Bitterness conjured in a tale of “watching your friends get rich” from a sinkhole of “pills and cigarettes” on “Hollywood Goldmine.” The pointlessness of talking when there’s nothing left to say on “Just a Conversation.” The futility of seeking meaning with “Patterns of My Mind” …
Half-Life Wilderness is about process, not terminus. The music that conveys this message straddles both sides of a vital line. On the one hand, it’s a masterwork of instrumental arrangement, shaded with vintage synthesizers, laced with eerie guitars, driven by insistent rhythms and dazzled by spinning sonic sparklers. On the other hand, the songs are planted on a firm musical foundation and then splashed with exuberant experimentation.
Five of Benus’s 10 songs were written on one acoustic guitar, with Liz Cooper on “Cigarette Sunset,” and “Patterns of My Mind” with Cooper and Tyler Osmond, whose credits include Rayland Baxter and Cage The Elephant. Half-Life Wilderness is produced by Grammy-winning producer and writer, Owen Biddle, former bassist of The Roots.
Over the course of a few days, Josh and Owen rented a cabin in the Smokey Mountains and worked feverishly demoing six or seven songs. “Within a month we had a full-length record. The rate at which we worked felt like a pivotal moment for me,” Josh explains.
Myriad details reflect the meticulousness of this production. To better convey the feel of the lyrics and frame Benus’s baritone range, guitars are tuned-down from E to C. “I wanted to have a contrast of organic and synthetic textures to create the anxiety I was feeling, accompanied by vocals that weren’t too aggressive but had a quiet intensity.”
In the end, Half-Life Wilderness is just a first step down a longer path toward new personal and musical adventures. As a meditation on life’s shadows, as an example of rock-solid craftsmanship and freewheeling imagination, Glass Dove speaks at multiple levels to multiple audiences with no plan of stopping in sight.