Benjamin Curtis, 1978-2013

I was saddened to discover today Benjamin Curtis, American musician and founder of the Secret Machines, died on December 29. He was just 35.

The Secret Machines were one of my earliest musical ‘discoveries’, so to speak, combining all the brilliant psychedelia of Pink Floyd and pomp of Led Zeppelin into often long, intricately thought-out stompers.

Their debut album, Now Here Is Nowhere, remains one of the very best albums of this millennium, a flawless 50-minute ode to the bands who inspired them paired with a generous slice of 21st century precision and attitude.

No song encapsulates this with greater aplomb than First Wave Intact, the opening track from Now Here Is Nowhere. A nine-minute romp, perhaps even a modern take on Zeppelin’s sprawling Kashmir.

I was fortunate enough to catch The Secret Machines at Thekla in Bristol on February 15, 2009, following the release of their third (and final) album. A week later, I was still idly strumming the opening salvo of First Wave Intact to myself.

For them, it was probably by no means an extraordinary gig, just another stop on the tour. But the power with which they delivered their set from soaring, heavy highs to calm, sombre lows was incredible. I’ve since seen bands sell out arenas and stadiums yet fail to land a punch with such ferocity.

Curtis went on to found School of Seven Bells after before announcing earlier this year he was undergoing treatment for cancer. He died on Sunday after a year-long fight.