Benjamin Trueblood, aka Feltbattery, has been collecting and sculpting the sounds that comprise Behold a Golden Throng for five years—recording swarms of bees, cutting those spans with electronics, and combining the bits into alchemical environments of digital and physical realities. Concurrently, Trueblood, a Hillsborough schoolteacher within the interdisciplinary Waldorf education system, read the works of Austrian theorist Rudolf Steiner, the fount of Waldorf's key ideas. Steiner's thoughts about the parallels between the human brain and beehives, as well as his recognition of humanity's dependence upon the honey bee, pushed Trueblood toward his own study of bees, the culmination of which is the 21-track, 71-minute Behold a Golden Throng.
Listening at first to Throng, it's tempting to dismiss the record's length as the excess of an obsessive; after all, if you'd spent five years thinking about and documenting a subject, would you want to trim the work to normal album-length confines? But this record's great expanses of ghosted melodies, electric tumults and static calms—so mimetic of nature's worry-and-rest tendencies—create their own immersive world of activity that is at times preposterously uneasy and at times preternaturally soothing. "Bien," for instance, opens with what sounds like sampled bird song, spliced and repeated so as to emphasize only attack. It's shrill and punishing, like a hair metal CD single stuck on the sharpest note of the guitar solo. "Haengekorb," however, finds Trueblood intoning beneath nature's captured quiet moments, like a bird in the distance and a splash in a nearby puddle.
The linchpin of Throng, though, and the real testament to Trueblood's suppliance to subject here, is that no single quality exists without its binary—that is, it's never enough to call any moment beautiful or another moment abrasive. Notice the sinister, persistent hum throughout "Haengekorb," suggesting a steady swarm doing its steady work in close proximity. Wait for the transitions within "Bien," like the sudden metallic clangs that sublimate into clouds of nearly musical overtones. There's a natural indecision within Behold a Golden Throng, or, more properly, a reluctance to be pretty or aggressive but, instead, just to bee. It's a wonderful and mature decision from Trueblood, one that makes certain momentary demands of the listener before delivering a seemingly endless slipstream of rewards.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Loud, live or Latin."