City Rain is the solo project of Ben Runyan of Philadelphia, USA. ‘Light Turned On’ is his debut release for the UK based label Boltfish who have established themselves as purveyors of quality electronic music over the past few years.
Runyan’s objective with this release is to create an autobiographical album that depicts a range of moods and feelings experienced during the recording of the album. Beyond that however Runyan decided to create an electronic album mixed with organic sounds to add some realism to the process. To do this he took field recordings in and around his apartment – anything from travelling to work, birds singing or preparing a meal – and combined them with sounds deliberately created such as rattling dishes, tapping surfaces or jangling keys, the aim being to add some intimacy to the recordings. A number of tracks additionally feature his guitar playing, which adds some extra warmth and feeling to the tracks beyond the synthetic qualities that pure electronics provide.
Creating an album to depict your moods throughout the course of a year is inevitably going to feature both highs and lows, probably in fairly equal amounts, and ‘Light Turned On’ is no exception. Alternating between bright, cheery and upbeat tracks and gentler, slower and more reflective pieces, the album covers the whole spectrum of emotions whilst maintaining an impeccable level of production and precise flowing electronics from start to end. The upbeat tracks are energetic, rhythmic and bouncy whilst the more introspective tracks display thought, subtlety and a more moderate pace without dispensing with beat or rhythm completely. This helps maintain a good level of consistency between the different paced tracks without making the change in mood too abrupt or noticeable.
With tracks such as “Well You Said” or “Chasing Leaves”, the mood is one of uncertainty or dismay where some direction has perhaps been lost and the future is not as clear as it first seemed. As personal as it is to Runyan, Light Turned On is an album of contrasts; “Mia” and “Click Clack” are subtly melancholy while “While I Was Dreaming” and “Face for Books” are optimistic, driven and upbeat. “Philadelphia” is also an interesting prospect as it takes emotive piano and poignant sweeping tones and adds smooth techno rhythms and just a slight hint of distortion, the sombre backing track nicely countered with uplifting beats. “Back on Track” is at first melancholy and sombre with the sound of slowly played piano keys against heavy rain and the sound of passing trains that quickly gains a smooth rhythm, acoustic guitar and a healthy dose of optimism, the sound of trains becoming more of a humorous comment on the song’s title and affirmation that a difficult time has passed.
By the end of the album the impression is that Runyan chooses his song titles as literal, humorous or critical commentary on the mood or situation they depict. Portraying specific events in his life each track can either be distinctly upbeat, slightly sombre or a mix of the two, perhaps illustrating the mixed emotions we all feel at difficult times in our life and giving us something we can all relate to.
Published by IglooMag [July 30th 2009]