BIOGRAPHY


 

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"The most fascinating musician to have emerged in this country in the last ten years.”

Grant Smithies, Sunday Star Times

"One of the most distinctive, singular and divisive musical figures to emerge within his home country since the dawn of the 21st century.”
Martyn Pepperell, The 405


"Dudley Benson is a caster of spells and a weaver of dreams. One of the best and most persuasive that we have.”
William Dart, Radio New Zealand

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Dudley Benson (b. 1983) is an avant-pop musician based in Dunedin, New Zealand. A rare independent artist that negotiates a fiercely unique vision, critical acclaim and chart success, Benson’s work seamlessly blends elements of pop, choral, classical and electronic music to arresting effect. He has performed in and been commissioned by New Zealand’s major public art galleries and national museum, and sold out shows in the clubs of Tokyo. Achieving somewhat of a cult status, Benson has duetted with Vashti Bunyan, been remixed by Matmos, Casiotone For The Painfully Alone and Barbara Morgenstern, and recorded albums in both English and te reo Māori (the Māori language).

Through a trilogy of genre-defying records, rare live shows and collaborations with dancers and visual artists, Benson’s work celebrates nature and deconstructs nationhood. His 2008 debut The Awakening marked the singer’s arrival with a disarmingly moving song cycle that explores our longing for the places of childhood. Coloured by a baroque pop ensemble of recorder quartet, harpsichord, string quartet and four-part choir, The Awakening spurned a now-legendary tour of New Zealand’s churches and cathedrals, and was many journalists’ pick of best New Zealand album of 2008.

Two years later, Benson released Forest. A collection of re-interpretations of waiata (songs) by the Māori composer Hirini Melbourne, Forest is set in the canopy – each song is a native New Zealand bird, and recorded within the limits of the human voice: choir, beatbox, alt-barbershop quartet, bird mimic, and Dudley’s unmistakable tenor. The album pulses with the fragility of the natural world, and earned him a nomination for the 2011 Taite Music Prize, New Zealand’s equivalent to the Mercury. On the heels of receiving a 2014 New Generation Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, Benson released Forest's compelling remix companion, Deforestation, featuring radical intepretations of the Forest songs by electronic producers from New Zealand, Japan, Germany and the US.

Benson’s much anticipated follow-up took eight years to produce, and as Radio New Zealand’s Nick Bollinger said, it’s a record “like no other”. Zealandia is Benson’s 2018 love album to an unseen land – twelve intricately-arranged songs recorded with symphony orchestra, fifty-person choir, and beats crafted from rocks and minerals within the continent. At times achingly beautiful, at others fizzing with bold electronic textures that mirror the rugged Southern landscape of Benson’s homeland, Zealandia is a monumental journey both in sound and scope – a search for identity and a call to arms to question New Zealand’s colonial history.

Benson’s triumphant return saw the album chart in the New Zealand Top 10, soldifying his status as a cross-over cult-pop artist. The Zealandia project continues to evolve in 2019 through a series of self-directed music videos and remix EPs, and his inaugural European, UK and Australian performances.

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2018      Zealandia released (2xLP/digital/CD/newspaper)

2017      Performs commissioned work A Wedding for Christchurch Art Gallery's Waitangi Day celebrations

2014      Deforestation remix album released (LP/digital/CD)

              Winner 2014 New Generation Award, New Zealand Arts Foundation

2012      Albums released in Japan

              Japan solo tour

              Performs commissioned work at Te Papa, New Zealand national museum

2011      Live Series: Volume One released (Ltd 2xCD/digital)

              Department of Conservation & Creative NZ Artist in Residence, Naseby

2010      Forest released (CD/digital)

               New Zealand nationwide tour with acapella band

2009      Performs commissioned work for Auckland Art Gallery in response to Rita Angus' retrospective Life & Vision

2008      The Awakening debut album released (CD/Ltd CD/digital/book)

               New Zealand nationwide church tour with choir, string quartet and Richard Nunns

2007      Minerals & Rocks remix EP released (12" LP)

2006      The Orders, Medals & Decorations EP released (Ltd. CD)

              Steam Railways of Britain debut EP released (Ltd. CD)

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Top image by Russ Flatt with composite artwork by Matthew Galloway. Lower image by Charly Walsh.