Ben Khan

Ben Khan


Not a lot is known about Ben Khan. He hasn’t done a lot of interviews, he’s not big on the ol’ social media, he’s only released one EP (the stunning 1992) with another one on the way, and rarely plays live. I can’t even (shock!) find a Wikipedia page for him. What we do know is he’s a 22 year old from London and he makes sublime slices of skewed RnB future pop with thick slabs of funk guitar and muggy, claustrophobic synths all over it.  He’s often lazily compared to Jai Paul, in an interview with Pitchfork last year he was asked about the comparison and responded ‘Having an Asian name, basically? Yeah, I don’t think there would be any comparisons if my name was Blake Johnson. But it’s just completely natural for people to do that. If you want to understand something, you naturally want to associate it with something else.’ Khan is very much his own man, and doesn’t sound like anything around in the pop world at the moment. This is his first tour-proper, and tonight he’s in the rough and ready surrounding of the tiny (but perfectly formed – I love this place) Soup Kitchen basement.

Khan, brandishing a guitar, impossibly good looking and decked out in a casual old skool Adidas sweater, is joined by a bassist, synth/keyboard/drum pad dude and a live drummer for tonight’s performance. The stage is swathed in green light as the quartet play a moody introduction of ice cool synth murk, setting the tone for the night to come. What follows is one of the most thrilling nights of pop music I’ve seen in a while. Stage banter is minimal, Khan just thanks us for coming out and once or twice introduces the next track, but mostly he stands in the shadows (the lighting is minimal but beautiful throughout, Khan bathed in stands of green or orange, but never fully in the limelight), and plays his incredibly tight set of songs like his life depends on it. ‘Eden’ is a complete treat, sounds that could be elephants trumpeting come from nowhere amongst the funk guitar that Prince would be proud of – indeed, if Prince released this in 1988 everyone would have gone mental for it. The crowd boogie appreciatively, unable to stand still as the beats get hold of their feet and compel them to dance along, and even when unfamiliar songs from the unreleased EP come along, every one is nothing but rapt.

‘Drive Pt 1’ is minimal RnB at its absolute finest, the sparse beat accompanying Khan’s silky voice cutting through the room. ‘Youth’ brings beaming smiles to everyone’s face, as the Drive soundtrack-esque intro gives way to another killer Prince indebted guitar line and whoops of synth, Khan singing about the follies of youth – the crowd should take heed, I’m about 10 years older than most of them! He’s off stage before we know it, after about 30 mins of pretty much perfection. Then he returns after about 30 seconds with the rest of the band, not keen to milk an encore, and they launch into another icy instrumental before breaking into the barnstorming ‘Savage’, Khan’s best moment so far (in a catalogue of best moments). It’s the closest thing we get to a sing along tonight as the crowd hollers out ‘I was baptised before the Gods’ halfway through, Khan’s brilliant guitar sounding like he’s playing lines backwards and through a processor, synths bubbling away and noises that sound like nothing else around at the moment populating the background, it’s stunning stuff. And that’s it. 35mins of sublime music from a dude who, if the world has any justice in it at all, should be absolutely massive come this time next year. It’s time for Ben Khan to step out of the shadows and give the pop world a good boot up the ass.

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