50 Weapons is in a fine run of form. In the last 18 months, album releases from Bambounou, Phon.o and the unfairly maligned Addison Groove have established the label as the home of what you could call the consolidating long-player. None of those albums were big, ambitious statements. Their producers were not overly burdened by any need to move things forward. Instead, they were all works of passion and craft, albums which riffed on existing sounds and toggled around styles, but in a distinctive way.
Benjamin Damage's solo debut, Heliosphere, is more in that vein. It's easy to locate the Berlin-based Welshman on a musical map. His sound sits somewhere between Shed's pile-driving techno, the supple, minimalist delicacy of mid-'00s Mobilee and, if only as a secondary source, Burial's stoned, snuggly warmth. Indeed, the hallmark of Damage's work is a drowsy, heavy-lidded quality. This is a bit ironic, given the "sleep is for the weak" vocal on the lustrous "Together." It's as if his tracks were torn between the dance floor and crawling back beneath the duvet.
The almost beatless "Spirals" is the sound of a rave in a 14th century monastery. "End Days" could be James Blake or Nicolas Jaar, its melodic squiggles of organ underpinned by fluttering garage hi-hats, the track blanketed in an intergalactic hum of background radio interference. "Light Year" feints towards club-functionality, but thinks better of it. Its bare kick, slovenly swarming bass pads and swells of chiming synths are held in beautiful restraint. As with the closing title track, it's like hearing a distant party in dub, its detail reduced to a gorgeous smudge.
Even when Damage rouses himself from this ambient slumber to give the listener a shellacking, his music is full of quirky detail that makes his bangers cute rather than brutal. With its rolling rhythmic force and hangar-sized dub-techno riffs, "Delirium Tremens" is Berghain-ready, but it is Damage's light touch—specifically the strange rippling percussion which ricochets through the track—that lives in the memory. Heliosphere could fall between two stools, its gentle techno perhaps still too muscular for the bass music crowd. But for home listening? It is a real gem.