It takes two to make a thing go right
It takes two to make it outta sight!
-Rob Base

On the quest for the total mindfuck, you can certainly go the "smoke tons of weed and contemplate the universe contained within an atom in your fingernail" route, or alternatively, you could pick up the Benevento/Russo Duo's (a.k.a. "The Duo") new CD Best Reason To Buy The Sun - their first release as a member of the "because it's good for your soul" label Ropeadope Records. The Duo have brought the telescopic, microscopic, kaleidoscopic, genre-rific grooves of their renowned live shows to magnetic tape and pressed plastic and might just have permanently replaced the dorm room gravity bong in the process.

Like the protagonist in a "shoot 'em up" video game, Joe Russo and Marco Benevento have amassed a trove of weapons and are now turning them on your brain - kicking ass, blowing cerebrum to bits, and not taking no for an answer. What was once a simple organ and drums outfit has become a musical Shrek, layered like an onion, with techno-percussive backbeats and a synth-tastic army of keyboards. The resulting album is a wide-ranging assembly of electronica, Zeppelin-esque rock, textured melody, old-fashioned organ grooving, and surprisingly touching piano jazz. While at times, Best Reason To Buy The Sun comes off as a touch too ambitious, maybe one or two tracks that make a nearly perfect album just freakin' great, this still may be the best music you hear all year.

Each song probably deserves its own essay, there is so much depth, so much to discover, so much sound! Within each passage is enough music to spawn dozens of songs - within each song are enough ideas to produce an entire catalog of albums. The album starts off with "Becky," which is emblematic of the whole. Electronic steel drum noises loop both rhythm and melody in an addictive fashion while real-time Joe and Marco interact with themselves and each other and the technological ephemera swirling around them. The listener finds himself in a musical "Choose Your Own Adventure" book where his ear can jump from sound to sound, following Benevento's churning left-handed bass-lines to the cyclic blips from Russo's drum machine to Joe's four-limbed conversation with the rest of it. Each successive listen is a new story, each ending in a nasty delicacy of a guitar-free Zepp-ish coda that will put the song in your head for days on end.

Tracks flow together effortlessly, and like a mix tape to a loved one, Benevento and Russo have strung together a stunning array of sounds and emotions. "Welcome Red" is the "Something" to "Becky's" "Come Together," taking the same electronic/biologic duality and making something altogether lovely to balance the wonderfully down-and-dirty. "Vortex" opens with a slow, churning organ that yearns for a vocalist and instead finds Benevento singing a solo on the grand piano in grand fashion.

All this is without mentioning the guests – Skerik, Mike Dillon and Smoky Hormel all add their own sonic stamps all over Best Reason. Skerik penetrates the tandem on "Scratchitti" blowing a mean and clean tenor and then countering Marco with a distortion-drenched gargoyle that certainly puts the "scratch" in "Scratchitti." Dillon and Hormel add yet more layers of sounds, the best of which is on the disc-closing "My Pet Goat," which loops and loops with Mike D's tabla just the right spice to cull undeniable deliciousness and a scraping guitar from Hormel bringing the intensity to a point that's just manageable by the sober mind.

Perhaps the best reason to buy Best Reason To Buy The Sun is "9x9," which brings the Duo's schizophrenia to a hilt joining mind and body, AC and DC, fast/loud and quiet/slow, live and sampled, 1's and 0's, dream and waking, drums and keys; It's an absolute masterpiece. And on and on it goes, until Benevento has elicited a Mount Rushmore of heroes: Monk, Jarrett, Smith, Palmer, Worrell; and Russo has proved himself where few of his contemporaries can find him.

Kids, put the pipe down and listen to Joe Russo.

Aaron Stein
JamBase | New York
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Benevento/Russo Duo

[Published on: 3/30/05]

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