In the space of a single year, London’s Ben Khan has shot up to become one of the most exciting and highly praised artists around. Back in May last year, Khan released 1992, his four-track debut EP via his own Blessed Vice imprint. Letting the music speak for itself, it was Khan’s expressive and colourful combination of funk and R&B, infused with bursts of electronic expulsions which really impressed; not to forget that immaculate voice of his. Fast forward a year, and 1992 has amassed well over three million SoundCloud plays and Khan sets sights on releasing 1000, his sophomore effort.
If 1992 was Khan setting the foundation of his sound; then 1000 is the next step forwards. Both vocally and sonically, the 22 year-old takes things slightly further; experimenting with various other sounds, samples and approaches to vocal delivery. This is evident from the very first song…
Upon hitting play, Khan throws you right into the deep end with “1000”, which bursts into life with the kind of bass you can feel thumping away in your stomach. On top of that, you’ve got a wonderful explosion of electronic kicks and sparkling synths which add to the funky atmospherics. To balance the equation, Khan’s effortless falsetto flutters in and out; to give the track a softer undertone.
Next, you’ve got “Red”, one of the more straightforward songs on the EP. Here, Khan encompasses a more seductive aesthetic. “Can’t take my eyes off your eyes baby” he coos delicately in the opening lines, as the crunchy atmospherics are given a romantic edge by a wonderful guitar line which twangs here and there. If “1000” was futuristic, “Red” leans towards the more laid-back, chilled-out branch of the R&B spectrum.
In “Zenith”, Khan plays with the concept of superheroes having their own faults and wrongful deeds. With lines like “Well I gave my best, guess you need nothing less” and “Take me back” sees Khan’s Zenith character pleading with his lover; asking her to forgive for what he’s done. All of this, shrouded in a soundbed of clean electronics and sprawling guitars encased within a bubble of engorged synths.
It’s the cryptically named closing track “2022 Zodiac” however, that sees the biggest leap in terms of sound. At just under two minutes long, not only is it Khan’s shortest track to date, but it’s also his most intriguing. The atmosphere created is vivid, yet beautiful: “Summer solstice got me on a twist / A zephyr blazing through the mist”, whether describing another world entirely or not, the producer leaves it all to you to decide what it all means. Not even the vocal samples at the end give clues… Perhaps all questions will be answered in his next project?
A close look at Khan’s entire discography, and you’ll find a single underlying thread tying everything together. Each and every song, embodies a guitar line or chord progression serving as the heartbeat: Ben’s secret weapon. The guitars have become his signature sound, and whilst repetitive at times, are what makes his music his own.
Despite the huge success of 1992, instead of basking in buzz surrounding him, Khan took his time with this next release; refining and perfecting his sound. This, may just have been the best thing he did. Many (myself included) had likened Khan’s aesthetic to be similar to that of fellow Brit Jai Paul; a subject which was dismissed straight away when asked in an interview last year. With 1000, Khan renders these comparisons void, as the project illustrates a more natural and progressive sound, one that when listened to, brings to mind a single name, Ben Khan.