BENITO & BIRDY EARNS “Reality Check” C45 (Hylé Tapes)

When I was younger, we didn’t have social media, we had pen pals. (Guess how old I am? Guess!) In my third-grade class, we wrote letters to students at a nearby elementary school as part of our curriculum, and by the end of the year we all got together to meet one another. Even now I remember how surreal that was – I had only corresponded with this person via the written word, and suddenly there he was, right in front of me. As third graders are wont to do, we got over it pretty quickly and just played outside for a while on the playground. (My pen pal grew up to be a jerk in high school, so there you go.)

Benito and Birdy Earns – San Francisco’s Brian McNally and Berlin’s Arne Vogel, respectively – did the modern equivalent of pen-palling; then, each decided the other wasn’t a jerk (lucky sods) and met up in Berlin IRL. Fortunately for us – the populace including everyone other than McNally and Vogel – the two dudes just so happen to be electronic musicians, so what could just have been two transatlantic bros chilling for a couple of pints turned into a glossy experimental techno collaboration. How surreal was their meeting? Surreal enough, apparently, to dedicate the entire project to questioning what exists and what doesn’t.

That’s because Reality Check is chock full of hallucinogenic electronic noodlings, and the track titles themselves signify a disassociation with corporeal reality, a dislocation in time and space where it’s difficult to understand the physics of one’s environment. Even the album title itself – Reality Check – calls everything that’s perceivable into question. That’s OK – listening to this collab is like being submerged in a sensory deprivation tank, except you get to hang on to the glow sticks you brought with you to the alternative healer’s yurt.

Indeed, “Re.Surreal,” “Cellular_Vortex,” “Anti-Matter,” “Sifted+Blended,” and “#CAVELIFE” all come with clues that something extra-ordinary is being channeled through the music. And the intensity of the dopamine hits pulsing through your circulatory system is much more direct given the short duration of each track, allowing McNally and Vogel to crank out bunch of related ideas and move from one to the next with palpable ease. It’s a joy listening to the work these two long-distance friends have been able to produce, and regardless of how weird or unnatural actual human interaction is these days, you have to admit it worked out OK in this case.

--Ryan Masteller