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Album Review: Ben Lee: Ayuhausca, Welcome To The Work

11 April 2013 | 10:21 am | Samantha Armatys

This confusion is translated through these tracks, and while there are some redeeming moments, there is nothing to transport listeners to higher planes.

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Close your eyes and forget what you know about Ben Lee. Ayahuasca, Welcome To The Work bears no resemblance to the melancholic anthems of his youth, the infectious pop songs of his mainstream success, or the hit-or-miss meanderings of his recent years. It is clear from opening Mercury Rev-esque track, Invocation, that something has changed for Lee, and all signs point inwards.

An album about psychedelic drugs presents real opportunity to push the envelope. Instead long instrumentals and the soft vocals of Jessica Chapnik Kahn make AWTTW at times sound like the soundtrack to a yoga class. The breathy staccato and heralding chants of Welcome To The House Of Mystical Death evoke a tamer Animal Collective or The Flaming Lips, but where these groups create a Venn diagram of experimentation and pop and inhabit the space in between, Lee falters on the edges.

In The Silence provides the album's only catchy hook and poses some big questions: “If I open my heart, open my heart, where does all my pain go?” These lyrics expose the vulnerability at the core of this pursuit. Lee is trying to piece together a complex tapestry and recreate the intangible. It's unsurprising that the picture drawn is rife with ambiguity.

In light of the recent announcement that Lee will be Joel Madden's team coach on the next season of The Voice, it seems he is straddling two worlds – the esoteric and the mainstream. The material and the spiritual. This confusion is translated through these tracks, and while there are some redeeming moments, there is nothing to transport listeners to higher planes.

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