hardworking families is the project of one noise boy called tom bench. a living venn-diagram of brighton and leeds, tom used to tell anyone who would listen about his favourite abstract music; now he eagerly creates it, developing different sounds, characters and aesthetics inspired by what he loves and what he can’t stand. in performance, he has critiqued the transgressions of power electronics and acted out jokes about indie rock clichés – he has also misunderstood the telos of chairs and stapled reverse contact mics to television sets playing reruns of scrubs. here he is, though, alive and droning: Worse Than A Stranger sees tom stretch out for two longform pieces on two very different hypes.
on side a of what he would tell you is a ‘45rpm cassette’, tom walks downstairs to pre-established feedback and starts tinkering, the sounds of the house’s creaking floorboards entwining with growling delay. the drone eventually distances itself from tom as his no-input mixer starts to actualise – it breathes in bitter rhythms, eventually spitting them out like bad medicine. our tenacious artist eventually worms his way back in, gently dovetailing the drone, and finally using one of his classic trash instruments – a bike bell without the bike – to ring out a final suite.
the textural rawness of “Byantwood Road, Washington street” is pretty gruelling, though tom would probably give you his most surprised ‘oh?’ face if you told him so. he offsets it with “Paternoster”, a quiet and fertile piece of sound. recorded in sheffield university’s arts tower, a building constructed with an open compartment elevator, the piece shifts through wobbly strands of everyday life; it absorbs fragmented conversations and shuffles through the sounds of people hurrying off to their academic pursuits. tom makes the rushed, anxious movements sound merely figurative – they’re somehow slower and more dreamlike in this recorded format, creaking with kindness. the piece resolves on the sound of tom somewhere else, tapping at a printer on further travels through yorkshire’s loveliest city.