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John M. Bennett
A Flattened Face Fogs Through Jon Buckland , January 13th, 2022 09:57

Sartorial dis-ease, veiled poetics, and Burroughsian tape manipulation abound on this collection from sound poet John M. Bennett

Poetry is a versatile old dog. It can serve as solace, as cheer, as a bawdy glimpse into adult life. It can rattle our preconceptions and warm our hearts, gift us a home in a barren land, and bore our undercrackers right off. And, sometimes, it can rewire our brains. Through incongruent word-twists synaptic lightning links unsuspecting neurons across previously untravelled brainscapes. With prose that tumbles like raindrops from a shook tree, John M. Bennett does this with at least two plombs on A Flattened Face Fogs Through. So, be warned, this is a space for those who don’t like having their hands held.

Culling nine years and fifteen hours of veiled poetics down to a svelte forty-three minutes hasn’t done Bennett any harm. The phrase turns on display here are choice cuts, both forthright and determined. He makes singular claims with wild utterances as if there is no room for debate. Like Jonathan Briley, if he’d leave Crowley alone for just a damn minute and give Bolaño’s Visceral Realists a chance to purr, Bennett’s language plaits ricochet from lucid (“So cold outside the soft was hard and glass-breaking”) to enigmatic (“Your blood is loose”). Only resorting to shock tactics with the distressing throw away lines, “Last in line to spurt on a baby”.

Adding buoyancy to proceedings is the woozy production formed from timid flutes, nudged tambourines, and optimistic electronic flutters by the tampered minds of Byron D. Smith, Ficus Strangulensis, Mike Hovancsek, and Jack Wright. A pumping lo-fi techno heartbeat on album closer ‘Evird Eht’ collapses into free-jazz fireworks before exploding triumphantly into a cloud of knives. There’s the Dilloway-esque tape tantrums synching and disjointing the increasingly irate wordplay of ‘The Shirt The Sheet’, foreshadowing last year’s mutated-Ramones odyssey from Bill Orcutt. And then, on the track ‘No Sax’, mournful saxophone whistles out contrarily whilst Bennett eagerly describes puffing into a chicken’s corpse.

Unlike David Lynch’s proclamations of furniture friendship, Bennett’s concerns lie with pants, shirts, sheets. Inanimate objects that, apparently, give off a malevolent glow. An aura of dis-ease. Admittedly, his paranoia comes equipped with a sly grin, a twinkling eye and a sturdy set of panpipes which place these orations alongside those of a mid-morning preacher, all collar adrift and jettison-shoed, still wearing last night and baring a heart-heavy chest to bemused shoppers outside Marks and Spencer.

Factor in the elaborate myth-making: Bennett’s supposed ability to keep his spit in his mouth for four days without swallowing and tales of recording sessions broken up by police officers who described the scene as “so confused and marginal it was impossible to determine whether it was illegal or merely unhealthy” and there are thick vines of mystery here, howling to be untangled.