This summer, hallucinatory keyboard wizard Marco Benevento pulls back the curtain on his latest studio effort, simply titled, Benevento. Due June 10 on Royal Potato Family, the 11-track collection presents 40-minutes of small-batch psychedelia, bubbled up from his home studio (Fred Short Studios) at the base of the Catskill Mountains in Woodstock, NY. Its title nods to Paul McCartney's first solo album and like Macca’s eponymous release, Benevento is a similarly loose, low-key affair where song sketches and sunrise jams share space with more constructed tracks. Benevento plays all of the instruments with exception of percussion from Mamadouba 'Mimo' Camara and backing vocals by his wife and kids on a handful of songs. He also produced and engineered the recording. The album's latest single "Marco & Mimo," which sets Afro-Caribbean melodic lines and sing-song, earworm vocals against the bump 'n' grind of Camara’s percussion, is out today (listen/share), while pre-order is available here.
"This record really acts as a psychedelic window into my studio and my brain," Benevento explains. "The studio was a good place to be trapped for the last few years. I was surrounded by tape machines and gear. The album started to become this document of a crazy dude losing his mind in the woods—and maybe regaining it."
Recording was conducted amidst stacks of gear in varying states of repair, all fodder for inspiration during long quarantine-dictated solo jam sessions. In this environment, Benevento unlocked his archives, mining for unfinished song ideas, and surrendered to the machines, coaxing beats and melodies from both go-to favorites and gear that had long been collecting dust. Benevento has since decamped to a new, significantly larger, home studio. As such, the album also acts as a swan song for his former workspace.
"Wall-to-wall keyboards, mics, amps, drums, the place was about to explode," Benevento laughs.
In contrast to Let It Slide, his minimalistic 2019 full-length collaboration with producer Leon Michels, Benevento is heavily saturated and experimental, built from countless layers of keyboards, bounced to 4-track tape. Deeply indebted to the West African psychedelia of artists such as Francis Bebey, Kiki Gyan and William Onyeabor, the songs are rhythmic and repetitive, built into thick mosaics of sound. Each track features at least one keyboard solo, allowing Benevento ample time to explore sounds from the deepest recesses of his gear collection.
For the five songs with vocals, Benevento collaborated on lyrics with Al Howard, a San Diego-based poet. Howard handed over a 10 pages of lyrical sketches which Benevento worked into his tracks, occasionally chopping and mixing the lines or adding in words of his own.
"It was a new thing for me to dive in to—using someone's lyrics," Benevento says. "Or, I should say, finding a way to fit someone else's lyrics into my tunes. I was a bit fed up with my own lyrical ideas, and was immediately drawn to Al’s writing."
Despite stresses of the global pandemic, the vibe at Fred Short Studios was deeply peaceful and creative as Benevento patiently worked through years of accumulated ideas, lost, as he says, in the wonder of Woodstock. The experience ended up being so inspiring that—in another nod to McCartney—Benevento II is already in the works.
"I guess all my records are kind of experimental and weird, but this one is really unique," Benevento says. "Records are snapshots of time, and this is from a time when it was just me, dialing knobs and making mixes and inventing how things could sound."
As such, Benevento is sonic time capsule, a wormhole beckoning listeners to enter and explore. Throw away your preconceptions of time and space and dive in.
Marco Benevento - Benevento
1. Like Me
2. Marco & Mimo
3. At The End Or The Beginning
4. We Were Here
5. Winter Rose
7. The Warm Up
8. Do You Want Some Magic
9. Mountain Cougars
10. Ballad Of A Broken Wing
11. Is This A Dream
Benevento is out June 10 on Limited Edition Bubblegum Pink 180-Gram Vinyl,
Classic Black 180-Gram Vinyl and Digital formats from Royal Potato Family.
Pre-order available HERE
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