A pioneer of minimalist lo-fi synth music, John Bender has emerged from obscurity | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

A pioneer of minimalist lo-fi synth music, John Bender has emerged from obscurity 

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click to enlarge John Bender

John Bender


Leading the minimal-electronics vanguard of the early 80s would have required quite the undertaking for Cincinnati’s John Bender had he not instead opted to totally retreat into the recesses of obscurity (read: conventional life) following the release of the three now-mythical LPs on his own Record Sluts imprint. For years he stayed well out past the fringes, not much bothering with the notoriety those records received from the niche community he helped inspire. Eventually, however, he wore down, and in 2010 he gave permission to Superior Viaduct to reissue his first record, 1980’s I Don’t Remember Now / I Don’t Want to Talk About It. Then, just last year, he performed for the first time in more than 30 years—or let’s just say for the first time practically ever—as part of the Queen City’s inaugural experimental-music-heavy No Response Festival. The aforementioned I Don’t Remember remains not only a chilling, dystopian environment of layered glitches, gurgles, and buzzes but also once seemingly acted as a kind of side hustle by the curious Bender, meant both to explore his synthesizers’ capabilities and to develop his own fledgling capacities as a songwriter (as evidenced by his interpretation of Faust’s “It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl”). His pensive, often monotone vocals slowly twirl around rhythms as his lyrics dissect and pontificate on the human condition. It’s an eerie, heady record that marked the beginning of a fertile few years for Bender as he continued releasing the music he recorded in the late 70s. And today it sounds as modern and forward-thinking as it did decades ago. For geeks fascinated by the historical lineage of lo-fi synth music, this show is not to be missed.   v

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