Marco Benevento: Me Not Me

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By: Dennis Cook

Me Not Me (arriving February 3 on Royal Potato Family Records) begins like a rusty spigot twisting loose. Then, a crystalline flow rushes forth – mineral rich, cool, cleansing. For all his crazy technique and inherent skill, Marco Benevento is above all a fantastically emotional player, and never more so than this set, which begins with his found-sound sprinkled, wonderfully bent take on My Morning Jacket’s “Golden,” which foams up to an Aphex Twin-like percussion froth, hissing and bleeping romantically all the way. And things never grow less colorful thereafter on this headphone lightshow.

Though he employs Mellotron, Clavinet, Farfisa and circuit bent toys, the core of this swirling mass is Benevento’s acoustic piano – an 88-key orchestra he manipulates like an organ grinder works his faithful monkey – and thus a subliminal baroque vibe persists, a callback to Beethoven and Mendelsohn that honors pre-bebop ancestry and finds modern significance for shapes & sounds before Thelonious Monk. Oh, he’s in here, too, but Benevento’s inspirations are getting much harder to peg as he evolves his own thang.

He’s aided significantly by uber-bassist Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green) and drummers Matt Chamberlain (Critters Buggin) and Andrew Barr (The Slip), who split the album between them and overlap on “Now They’re Writing Music.” Together, these two gifted, fabulously interlocking trios ably update the ’60s Atlantic/Blue Note mix of jazz and pop music, finding fertile instrumental compost in George Harrison (“Run of the Mill”), Deerhoof (“Twin Killers”), Leonard Cohen (“Seems So Long Ago Nancy”), Led Zeppelin (“Friends”), Beck (“Sing It Again”), The Knife (“Heartbeats”) and MMJ, as well as the strongest Benevento originals yet. These cats keep their ears to the ground and draw further modern influence from Squarepusher, Boards of Canada and other electronic ramblers. What Marco and his rhythm team(s) have over pure studio constructions is a pronounced gusto for actual playing in real time. What the studio offers is a chance for contemplative (and even occasionally goofy) experimentation and sizzling performance to merge, slide into one another’s grooves and simmer a spell. The end result is Benevento’s finest hour to date.

New musical forms are hard to come by. There’s mostly variations on themes and styles but Me Not Me could be the start of something truly original. It takes the movie score romanticism of Benevento’s studio albums with Joe Russo, a few strains from Mathis’ Jacob Fred days, a touch of The Slip’s gliding melody and numerous other bits n’ pieces to produce a totally absorbing yet surprisingly accessible mosaic that represents the past, present and future in eye-opening ways.

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