Marco Benevento


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Swift Review

by Thom Jurek

After 2012's TigerFace, it was only a question of time before keyboard wizard Marco Benevento recorded an indie rock album. That set included two tunes in that vein, "Limbs of a Pine" and "This Is How It Goes." Swift is the record he had to make, right now. He not only goes for broke as a composer and instrumentalist, but as a singer and songwriter. The set is titled for producer Richard Swift (Foxygen, Damien Jurado), who helmed these sessions. Benevento enlisted Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz and session drummer Andy Borger as bandmates, with producer Richard Swift and Rosie Kirincic on backing vocals. This mix is busy, full of cloudy textures, hooky melodies, and loads of reverb and echo. The playing vibe is loose and the production's elastic, spacy effects add to that. Opener "At the Show" is a dancefloor jam with a twist: it marries the wonky lyricism of Harry Nilsson to the Tom Tom Club's slippery early-'80s groove complete with infectious handclaps. The slightly spooky syn-organ intro on "Witches of Ulster" is almost dubwise, but Dreiwitz's fantastic post-psych fuzztone adds a Flaming Lips-esque rock & roll dynamic while clattering snares and kick drums flood the middle. But in Benevento fashion, he employs a shambolic honky tonk piano to create a far-off melody as his vocals evoke romantic reverie, and it hangs together effortlessly. "If I Get to See You at All" employs analog synths, acoustic piano, a nearly monotonous rhythm, and Dreiwitz's fat, grooving fuzz. The stacked choral vocals and warm, decorous melody evoke the avant-pop feel of Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets. "Eye to Eye" rumbles into being via snare breaks, a droning bass, and a Mellotron slightly disguised as a harpsichord. Piano and thunderous drum rolls deliver a crescendo that belies the melancholy, yet contains a clamorous snare-tom-tom rock beat under a swirling keyboard vamp and pulsing bassline, and reflects a listen or two to Tame Impala's "Innerspeaker." "The Saint"'s intro is an amphetamine-drenched vamp, with a perversely distorted bass that recalls Suicide until Benevento shifts it all with a pumping acoustic piano (assisted by Mellotron'ed strings) that is nearly full-on rave-up rock. "No One Is to Blame" is a woozy, downer ballad, but its sonic reach is just as wide and the pianism is utterly fantastic. Benevento may not be a conventionally great singer, but he's excellent here. His voice and lyrics are framed attentively by his producer's crowded, ambitious mix. But Benevento's undeniable, unwavering ability to create instantly recognizable melodies and hooks inside unique arrangements is the focal point. On first listen, Swift is easily accessible yet very blurry. With repeated spins, as craft, emotion, and imagination commingle, it artfully comes into focus.

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