Jimmy Behan will never play Top Of The Pops. In fact Behan creates music that is left of what the mainstream would already consider very left indeed that it defies a neat little category that makes reviewing records much easier. The music on The Echo Garden, his second long player, is minimal electronic music that the man on the street may normally encounter as part of an art installation or perhaps a Bill Viola video. Ironically much of the building blocks of the sounds he creates seem scavenged from the street – such as stones rolling on a pavement, a buzzing fly or change jingling in a pocket. Tiny pieces of found sounds float about in the texture of the music like motes in a shaft of sunlight and they are uplifting and optimistic in their way.
Trying to describe the music is much like trying to describe art as it can’t but relate to personal feelings, unchained as it is from traditional melodies and beats. In this way is a step away from the warm and enjoyable first album Days Are What We Live In. You won’t find any hooks here, or whistlable melodies for that matter. Nor is there any guest singers. A change in tack is welcome for any musician in the name of progress – but Behan’s listeners must change their approach to this album too. It’s best appreciated listened to start to finish – not picking tracks, in as much ambient silence as you can find (though the odd noise from the street or chirp of nature works quite well with the music here). Good speakers are a must and a task that allows the mind to wander and drift is something you’d want to be doing at the same time. Alphabetising your CD collection, or perhaps editing some photo albums of old would be a good place to start.
Perhaps by its very nature it becomes an album you’re not sure what to do with. The immaculately constructed underlying music is often brought at odds with some ever so slightly jarring notes and noises at times. This does encourage the listener to actually think about the music and the layers within and it is easy to get lost in it – but also hard to relax completely (hence the suggestion of some tasks to accompany a listening).
Detailed, elegantly crafted, and brave it is. It’s also somewhat challenging listening and over the course of the whole album the tracks can float away from the listener, in the way of a jazz solo that doesn’t fall back into the song it began with, never giving you the melody pay-off or soft landing. It’s a collection of music no doubt perfect for something in your life. Figuring that out is the next step.