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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Rachel Pott
Rachel Pott
News Writer

I am a marketing major about to start my second year at Northern Michigan University, however, this will be my third year in college. I previously attended a small community college...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

It’s R&B, it’s funk, it’s… really good

Ben Khan isn’t really any older than we are (he’s 22). At first glance, he’s just some British kid making tracks in his bedroom—but at first listen? He’s killing it.

Khan released “1000” mid-May. Since then the four-song EP has attracted attention from the likes of NPR and Pitchfork. On the music streaming service SoundCloud, Khan has amassed over 50,000 followers, as well as thousands of likes and shares on individual Khan

The music is pleasantly wild; there are bluesy and distorted guitar hooks, thumping drum intros, enough synth backing to sink a small boat and a healthy dose of what Khan makes us feel 1987 ought to have been like. This is throwback music, to be sure.

About “1000:” the title track is fire. It grabs you from the first lyric, tosses you into the chorus and sets you down firmly but gently at the end. No fade-out, just a cut into the next song, which is just about as good as the last.

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“Red” is a little more low-key, a little slower, a little more “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” and a little less “cocaine-mustache” leg hop.

Neither “Zenith” nor “2022 Zodiac,” the other two songs on “1000,” bring us back to the comfortably warm fever of the introductory track. And that’s okay.

Khan is riding the spectrum a bit, loping along from one end (retrowave stars Miami Nights 1984) to the other (SBTRKT, perhaps) and creating music that appeals to a wider wake of sensibilities. The songs are part abstract jam, part orchestra futura.

He’s able to keep the listener engaged with moderately-paced stuff. For Khan, it doesn’t have to make your toes tap to feel right.

Prior to releasing “1000,” Khan pleased the ears with another four-song EP titled “1992.” These two albums thankfully had a lot in common, meaning that Khan was capable of keeping a consistent feel for the fans who obsessively listened to him from the beginning. It was relieving to hear the “sophomore slump” adage didn’t apply in this case.

It happens a lot; an artist releases a great first album, takes an early lead in the race for fans, and then the second album drops to the excitement, then mild disappointment, of listeners everywhere—

But Khan is keeping up. He has the chops for this stuff. While “Youth” and “Drive Pt. 1” from “1992” were excellent songs at first listen, and continue to be on heavy rotation for me, no ball is being dropped so far in 2015. Khan continues to clear the standard he set with that first release.

According to a May 7 Pitchfork article by Ian Cohen, Khan is frequently compared to “fellow R&B mutant Jai Paul.” Jai Paul’s music is similarly retro, similarly smooth, featuring a lot of the crunchy guitar riffs and, of course, heavy synth. It’s some sort of hybrid, throwing in R&B, soul, occasional raps and what’s essentially a juiced-up version of the “Risky Business” soundtrack.

The stuff that isn’t Phil Collins or Bob Seger, I mean—the real, quintessential “I’m driving a Porsche 944 with Rebecca De Mornay and wearing Wayfarers at night” type of stuff. Hell, Ben Khan’s Facebook cover photo is a Porsche 944.

Why is this aesthetic, and the accompanying music, so popular right now?

What is this stuff, calling back to the years just before the current student body was born?

I sure don’t know, but it’s great. I’m going to keep listening.

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