Marco Benevento: Between the Needles & Nightfall
Marco Benevento: Between the Needles & Nightfall
By The J-man
Photos By Michael Benevento
I looked forward to hearing this album, from the moment I knew of it’s pending release. Admittedly, I appreciate what Marco does, the music he makes, the simple innovations that he utilizes and that have become a staple to his sound. The guitar pick-ups on the piano, the effects, the circuit bent toys; all help to define what Marco does as a musician; as an innovator. This being his third solo album following “Invisible Baby” (2008) and “Me Not Me” (2009), I expected high level material.
The album opens up with Marco on amplified piano and utilizing circuit bent sounds on a track called “Greenpoint”. The drums come in quietly and then drop to a full cadence, at which point Marco steps up with the melodic amplified piano. Ambient droning sounds are mixed in with spacey effects to add layers to the track. Towards the middle of the song more layers are added to the beat to create a movable path for the Marco to pave the way, in a casual yet controlled fashion. The drums reach a crescendo, and the melody drives on only to climax itself bringing the song near it’s end. A repeating effect came into play around the say time, almost reminiscent of Radiohead.
The second track is the title track of the album; “Between the Needles & Nightfall”, a tune that Marco improvised one morning at his apartment. It begins with a natural piano intro, eventually joined by a couple of timed thumps here and there by Reed Mathis on the bass. Reed fully commits just under a half a minute in, shining with a romantic sounding bass groove. As Andrew Barr enters, the trio establishes sonic equilibrium before diving in to a crescendo reminiscent of classical arrangements; resolving to a pop/rock sound. A whining siren sound joins the piece to ride out the remainder of the song that leaves you with a high pitched effect. This intense and masterful arrangement is a solid example of the group’s compositional ability.
“Two of Us” starts out with a simple drum loop from Andrew Barr that is joined by Marco on an echoing electric piano. Along with some thumping bass, screaming effects mingle behind the piano work. With melodic textures and moving progressions, Benevento coats the canvas with a tasteful array of layering and emotional playing. Just past the half way point the music intensifies and climaxes with what sounds like symbols, ending with ambient long-lasting notes and the beat of a drum loop.
“Numbers” begins with an almost sultry/menacing beat, followed by single note bars and glitchy space effects. The piano resorts to four beat chops allowing for the effects to be featured as digital sounding conversation enters the picture. The melody is simple and almost childish, yet captivating as circuit bent effects as well as Nintendo/Coleco samples remain in the forefront. Just past the half way point the track really evolves into a multi-layered frenzy of beautifully crafted sound. Marco’s simple notation morphs into an all out assault of notes and phrasings, reflecting his ability to step outside of his often keep it simple approach/structure of his songs.
Somewhat inspired by MGMT’s “Time to Pretend”; “It Came From You” was written in about ten seconds, according to Marco. The song, noticeably more upbeat than the majority of the other tracks on this album; features heavy drum machine layering as well as a hefty amount of synth. Towards the middle Marco toys with simple melodies that remind the listener of childhood, and the thrill of being young. The song becomes heavier towards the middle/end, with Marco turning up the synthesizer and belting out a mocked melody on the electric piano. The song winds down with effects on a piano that sounds almost as if a choir had joined in to sing it to it's close. This is one of my favorites from the album.
“Illa Frost” picked up where “It Came From You” left off, with an almost choir/angelic intro. Marco’s colorful progression is met by a shaker as well as some drums and symbol. This song is a direct reflection of Marco’s range within’ his stylistic approach in regards to instrument choices and composition. Dominated by natural piano, “Illa Frost” creates a very inquisitive/unknowing vibe leaving the listener to reflect on life and it’s occurrences. Keeping consistent with Marco’s often ambient vibe, the song winds down with Benevento carving away at the keys as symbols sound out in the background, fading to nothing. Marco expresses that “It’s nice to settle down in a night of music and feel like you’re sitting on a cloud instead of a piano bench. It’s a sentimental song.”
“RISD” is a track that was improvised at a sound check before a show at a Rhode Island art school. It starts off immediately with drums and effects, going into sirens with the electric piano chopping along. This track is strong on the effects, with a lot of circuit bent sounds. The effects play well off of the keys and allow for some exciting moments. Just past the half, Marco steps up for some impressive key work which goes into effect-laden electric piano chops with a side of tremolo. The track ends with just the electric piano and some howling/crackling effects.
Recorded on a 1920‘s Wurlitzer 61 note upright piano “You Know I’m No Good” has that old time feel. With some groovin’ drums from Barr; Marco creates a path of destruction. This track was all about creating a raunchy feel and it accomplished it’s objective. The fact that it’s an Amy Winehouse cover becomes clear after the familiar melody jogs the memory and her effected vocals kick in. As aggressive as it is musically, it leaves the listener feeling mellow and dapper. I believe this to be one of the most diverse tracks on the album, as well as one of my favorites.
“Music is Still Secret” creates images of a couple strolling through the park, or dancing carelessly around town. Almost like a soundtrack to a movie that is right on the tip of your tongue, it beautifully sets the scene for wonderful thoughts. It’s calming piano work is contrasted by the tasteful use of effects and reverb on the electric accompaniment. This track also stands out to me as one of my favorites.
The abrasiveness that is “Wolf Trap” seems to pull the mood to a dark intense place. It conjures up thoughts of chaos and fury. The humming electric piano crunching with effects, feedback and distortion; Simple though complex feeling, this track delivers emotionally. The symbol work was heavy and fitting as Andrew Barr destroyed on the drums. The song comes to a horrifying crescendo as Neither Marco nor Barr hold back, absolutely tearing apart their respective instruments. The song fades as you are left with a low tone and a drum machine.
“Snow Lake” starts with a decent amount of synth and electric piano. It’s by far the most ambient track on the album. It leaves the listener floating along as Benevento displays his wizardry, accompanied by Vid Cousins and Rheem KeeBass. Reed and Andrew add their sound to the sonic mix with well balanced intuitive precision. The perfect closing track for the album.
“In Between The Needles & Nightfall” is the culmination of Marco’s solo work. It masterfully displays Marco’s compositional skill, as well as his ability to improvise and evoke a spectrum of emotional responses from the listener. This album is a must own for any Benevento fan as well a those who just appreciate; well composed, talented musicianship.
Pre-order the Between the Needles & Nightfall at www.marcobenevento.com
The album's official release date is May 11th, 2010.