Really, what’s the point of bringing up the past? Yes, Ben Lee is Australian. Yes, he started making records when he was 13. Yes, he was signed by the Beastie Boys to their Grand Royal label, etcetera…
But fast-forward 20 years or so, and Ben Lee is still making records. In fact, clearly a creative departure and perhaps Ben’s most ambitious work to date, his latest, eighth full-length album under his own name, Deeper Into Dream, will be released in October by Lojinx in Europe, Dangerbird in the US and Dew Process in Australia.
Harnessing the theme of dream work, the heady is still somehow handled with particular grace – Ben encapsulates by saying, “This album is about dreams, and like a dream, it bubbled up mysteriously from my unconscious. I’m listening to it wondering what it is, and why it came, what it has to tell me.”
What comes across the transom is far from a cold study, but rather a new wisdom shared by an old friend – Ben’s own personal journey set to music. So, it makes sense that the album is interspersed with recorded accounts of dreams from a number of house visitors over a 3-month period, which make up the 3 “dream collages” you’ll hear on Deeper Into Dream, along with 10 brilliant and diverse new songs.
"I feel I spent the bulk of my 20s chasing "alternative hits," an elusive and frustrating endeavour, so I decided to dump all of those goals and make a totally personal record at my home studio in Laurel Canyon."
In many ways, the new album is the product of 3 years Ben spent in dream analysis with respected therapist Jan Lloyd, who suffered a sudden stroke and died last August. Ben says of Lloyd, "He opened me up to the idea that the most profound journey is the one inside your own mind."
The new record is Ben’s first self-produced album, along with long term collaborators Nic Johns, Petra Haden and Lojinx label-mate Lara Meyerratken, Ben wrote and recorded with the main goal being a sense of atmosphere, well reinforced by his choice of Noah_Georgeson, (Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, The Strokes) to mix Deeper Into Dream.
"I felt like people reveal more than they realize they’re revealing in telling you a dream," Lee says. "If you say to someone ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ they’ll say ‘fine’ or ‘ok’ and not give much away. With a dream, despite their greatest efforts to conceal all their vulnerabilities, it all comes out in the mythology of their dream."
From the earthy acoustics of "Glue" and the celestial synth-tinged "I Want My Mind Back" to the pop grandeur of "Pointless Beauty," Deeper Into Dream comes at you from all sides. On the vibrant rush that is "The Church of Everybody Else," Lee’s resistance against conformity has his heart wide open, and more than ever before. "Get Used to It," a riff-heavy surge mixed with lush string arrangements, finds Lee contemplating death, particularly the death of Jan Lloyd. He ponders the moment of leaving this world, and the fear that must accompany that transition. “Once you jump in,” he sings, wondering if the journey into the unknown might be easier than you think.
"We think that life is simple and or we may think that life is black and white, and dreams often open up the complexity and the ambiguity and the uncertainty," Lee says.
An 8-years-in-the-making feature length documentary – Catch My Disease – from director Amiel Courtin-Wilson, premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August. It features interviews with Thurston Moore, Mike Watt, Mike D, Claire Danes, Winona Ryder, Michelle Williams and captures Lee’s life and career up until his daughter Goldie was born. "It’s been very liberating [to see it] because it allowed me to put some things into perspective that I couldn’t see before. I became a man. A better artist. And a kinder person. A warmer person.”