Balance is a delicate art: shift a bit too much in one direction or another and it’s thrown. As a result, striking the so-called ‘perfect balance’ is tricky business and rarely does anyone get it truly right. However, some individuals come mighty close—Ben + Vesper being two of them. On All This Could Kill You, the husband-and-wife duo weave a patchwork of various sounds and styles, play one element off another and, ultimately, make an elegant balancing act out of ther debut. Touches of avant-pop, folk and mid-’90s slowcore all can be heard, but no one genre dominates; rather, they all intermingle into a cohesive whole, which at times can be light, floating and beautiful, and at others, tough and dissonant.
With this union of harmony and disharmony, it should come as little surprise then that All This Could Kill You is produced by Daniel Smith, who’s made a career out of this approach with his own Danielson projects. His rich, organic production instills the record with a warm and generally inviting air, giving equal weight to Ben’s deep Scott Walker-style voice (typically accompanied by Vesper’s harmonies) and the intricate arrangements that back it. A few other members of Smith’s famile also join Ben + Vesper, such as the producer’s wife Elin, brother David, and friend Sufjan, who help contribute to the variety of stringed instruments, organs, and percussive devices that fill the album.
Only for a brief period in the record’s middle section do Ben, Vesper and friends stumble slightly. A few overly dark numbers, such as “The Stomach” and “Force Field,” drag in comparison to the more optimistic, upbeat ones, like “Rockaway Twp” and “An Honest Bluff” (a track that sounds remarkably like American Analog Set meets Bedhead).
But overall, Ben + Vesper are rarely thrown, carefully balancing all weights and measures into an album well worth investigating.