Album review: Lekker (Ben Hauptmann)

Benjamin Hauptmann Lekker
26 April 2014, via

Lekker album launch at FBi Social in Sydney on April 26, 2014 – Ben Hauptmann and band, supported by Danaides. See the invitation on Facebook

Review by Lucian McGuiness

Lekker-coverWhile guitarist-composer Benjamin Hauptmann has included a small number of guest musicians on Lekker, it’s best viewed as a personal diary – a singular forthright voice. Hauptmann is a formidable guitarist whose credits spread across the genre spectrum from Blue Juice, Lior, Gurrumul and Katie Noonan to jazz trumpeter James Morrison. Almost entirely self-recorded, with a heavy emphasis on programming and digital synths, if there is a key collaborator here it is mixing engineer Lee Groves, who balanced and polished the collection of home MIDI programming and live studio overdubs. Groves is a sort of digital music wizard, having started out programming sound cards for major brand synthesizers, and over the years produced or programmed for artists like Goldfrapp, Black Eyed Peas, Bertie Blackman and Gwen Stefani. Any instrumentalist as standout as Hauptmann could be forgiven for simply outputting the simplest possible display of their talent (guitar wailing over top-notch session band anyone?) but anyone who has seen him in control of a performance or band will know Hauptmann has always displayed a strong instinct to compose and produce music with a broader view.

For anyone looking for a shortcut introduction, Hauptmann can be reasonably well understood if you skip straight to the final track of Lekker, “Eastern Country”: entirely self recorded, a combination of live and programmed instruments, and a rich meandering texture of rhythm, ambience, melody, skillful improvisation all within a composite of rock, asian and jazz timbres. Whilst digital synths, programming, and other phenomena of the early digital age are undoubtably part of the current reboot trend in pop, it’d be hard to argue that the sounds on Lekker are a deliberate or even accurate recreation of some bygone era in music fashion, nor are they particularly derivative of the current era of synth-based pop.

ben1Curious for more? Preview the wordless vocal number ‘Delhi’, featuring Katie Noonan (see below). Noonan’s ethereal voice in combination with a bell-like patch might lead you to believe you’re in for an abstract-like emotional soundscape, but soon a driving backbeat (played by drummer and brother, James Hauptmann) and moog-like bass lead us into a fairly epic journey, conjuring in my mind images of some cosmic flythrough video… or maybe an iTunes 1.0 visualizer window.

Hauptmann tends to stretch the cycles in his songs, the effect being that more often than not you are lead through shifting scenes by an uninterrupted rhythmic train built either by rock-solid drumming (replacing or complementing programming on most of the tracks) or rolling, layered synth or guitar riffs. In this context the standouts for me are “Salad For Now” which grooves in a gloriously childlike manner until deconstructing into some kind of delay supernova, and “Shuffle Over” for it’s sheer brawn and unapologetic attitude, topped with satisfyingly audacious solos.

There’s a number of ways Lekker will appeal. For example, if you’re looking for ‘progressive’ music in any sense, if you’re a fan of ‘fusion’ or virtuosity, if you’re attracted to digital timbres and interested how they might be applied outside of mainstream dance or atmospheric styles. Conversely if you need to hear traditional-minded songwriting, or any kind of ‘roots’-derived aesthetic, you probably won’t find what you want here. What I’ve found is Lekker is an ingenious and dramatic ride, a deft examination of the spectrum of Ben Hauptmann’s musical ambition.


Ben Hauptmann – electric & midi guitar/electric bass/programming (all tracks)
James Hauptmann – drums/percussion (all tracks except Cappadocia & Eastern Country)
KT Noonan – vocals (Delhi)
Dan Junor – EWI (Salad For Now, Rice Bubbles, Shuffle Over)
Brendan Clarke – acoustic bass (KT, Ry)
Arne Hanna – electric guitar (Congo)


Drums/Percussion & Electric Guitar recorded by Richard Belkner at Free Energy Device
Electric Bass and Moog Bass recorded by Evan Mannell at The Shred Shed
Mixed by Lee Groves at Room 307, New York City
Mastered by Lachlan Carrick at Moose
Artwork by Michael Georgetti


Ben Hauptmann on the web

Lekker on Bandcamp

Yum Yum Tree records

Lekker is featured in  AJN podcast 1.01

Listen (and purchase)

Lekker album launch at FBi Social in Sydney on April 26, 2014 – Ben Hauptmann and band, supported by Danaides. See the invitation on Facebook