John Bence uses music to probe the deepest recesses of the human psyche. The composer has already built up a striking body of work bound by an incredible clarity of vision. His elegiac works occupy an omnivorous sound-world, assimilating elements of British avant-garde and electronic music, classical tradition and sacred medieval song into cavernous, sepulchral compositions.
Love forms the final chapter in a trio of works with Kill and Disquiet that chart Bence's experiences with addiction and his subsequent journey to recovery. Returning to his first love, the piano, Bence explores the instrument's deeply emotional qualities in ten movements. Love's stark minimalism and raw production reflect the composer's personal struggles with striking honesty, searching for the deeper meaning in human suffering.
Love was Bence's first release written in sobriety. He explains: "After finally getting sober in January 2018, even thinking about composing anything but works for solo piano seemed too big of a job. I was so emotionally raw without the booze, I just hunched over the keyboard, sober eighteen months, until Love was born".
Bence began layering individual voices that he would meticulously arrange into movements. Through careful editing Bence imbued Love's skeletal architectures with an incredible amount of sonic detail. Single phrases or even notes would often be recorded over and over again until Bence achieved the perfect resonance. Each movement makes powerful use of silence and space. Frenzied runs and rumbling clouds of bass tones crumble into sparse chords and single notes reverberating out into the darkness. Love's free-flowing structure and unvarnished textures present Bence at his most open and vulnerable, giving the impression of being sat at the piano with him through those trepidatious first steps into a sober life.
Writing Love was as much a spiritual journey for Bence as a creative one. Through those difficult first months of sobriety, music was now the only tool to escape and reach ecstatic states. Bence's subsequent worldview following his recovery draws on a Sun Ra-esque philosophy of sound as a means of psychic healing and a gateway to higher states of consciousness. Love represents his ongoing search for balance between silence and sound, dissonance and consonance, chaos and order, and an embrace of difficult experiences as a necessary part of the journey towards healing and spiritual enlightenment. Each piece, each note interrupting the calm of silence stands as a reminder of obstacles overcome and the necessary inner work each of us must go through.
Love marks a key milestone in Bence's personal life and music, the composer turning away from the darkness and towards enlightenment.