Ben Hovey: sound scientist

Ben Hovey shows off both his multi-tasking and his musicality. Photo by Zen Sutherland

With Hotel Indigo as the venue, and “sound scientist” as the description, I had no idea what to expect from Ben Hovey’s Friday night performance. (The last time I saw any live music in a hotel, it was Kenny G- style saxophone karaoke, and it was terrible.)

Walking into the Hotel Indigo lobby, the music washed over me: A perfect addition to the nouveau-hip ambiance of the hotel. Rounding the corner, I could see Hovey seated at a table with a keyboard to his right, an open MacBook in front of him, and two midi controller boards to the left of the lap top. On the floor, another foot controlled loop machine sat next to his melodica, trumpet and flugelhorn.
      There was a catchy beat grooving in the background as he picked up his trumpet and played a melody over that. With a subtle foot movement, he looped that melody line and played a harmony on top of it. With a second loop and a third harmony line in place, he let that roll and then improvised a trumpet part over the whole thing for several minutes.

Hovey’s music is hard to describe. He’s part DJ and part sound-scapist. He paints layers of sound from jazz, electronica, Middle-Eastern, bossa nova and hip-hop beats. During his performance, the layers stacked on top of each other and intertwined until there was a big, general groove. Once that had built up to its climax, it got to a point where I could almost ignore it. It just became part of what was happening, a lovely complement to the environment. Then, like a needle scratching across a record mid-song, it stopped, and something completely different-sounding started up in its wake. This element was perfect because it prevented the listener from being complacent. I almost had to look up at Hovey as he switched gears, to see what was up next.
      During his set break, Hovey described his all-original music as live electronica and dub-style house. He creates 8-track arrangements on his laptop using Ableton Software ahead of the gig. He then uses the midi controllers to rearrange on the fly, and basically DJs himself, adding live performances on the trumpet, keys, melodica and flugelhorn. The end result reminded me of some of the cuts off Moby’s 1999 release, Play, as well as some of String Cheese Incident’s live trance jams with Kyle Hollingsworth on keys.

Hovey is clearly much more than a computer music guy or a DJ. He’s an excellent musician, as evidenced by the skill with which he played the trumpet and then matched what he was playing, note for note, with his other hand on the keyboard, splitting into harmonies, all live. His musicianship is also evidenced by the long list of bands with which he plays including The Secret B-sides, The Booty Band, Agent 23, Aaron “Woody” Wood and more.

Watch videos of what he does on his website: benhovey.com and catch his solo performances almost every weekend in town at Marketplace Restaurant on Fridays, and at the Hotel Indigo bar on Saturdays and Sundays.

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