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Marco Benevento | TigerFace

album review by John Powell

Marco Benevento | TigerFace

It’s fine to criticize TigerFace, Marco Benevento’s fifth LP, maybe because the instrumentalist has vocals on two of the songs, or maybe because he’s gotten more ambient and noisy since his early days- but most listeners likely won’t complain one bit. Not when the songs are this good.

And Marco, dedicated as he is to making tight tunes, loves to have fun. TigerFace took him longer to make than his other records, recording ideas over several years, meeting up with a score of guest musicians (everyone from Andrew Barr to John McEntire), which is maybe why it’s less cohesive, more all over the place.

“Limbs of a Pine” features Kal Travers from Rubblebucket on vocals. The lyrics are simple and repetitive. The music is synth-tastic neo-disco, bass funk, perfect for Kal to sing over. It sounds nothing like Marco Benevento, but it still sounds good.

Immediately following is “This is How it Goes”, a more “Marco-esque” song. The bass has certain quality, the drums sparse, the keys bouncy, euphoric, and building. Kal is also on this song, so the album begins with two songs out of the ordinary, but both are pretty, light singles that are as car commercial ready as anything Marco’s dreamt up previously.

Some songs steal the show. “Fireworks” integrates synth drums with organic piano, and staccato rhythm, along with triangle to clang around on. Marco’s music always seemed to be the soundtrack for either a kindergarten class montage or an indie film about teenagers in a New York City Park. “Fireworks” explores this on a dense level, softly building and moving, never want of more lyrics (as fun as the first two tracks were).

Others, like “Escape Horse”, sound like Ben Folds Five jams, heavy on everything, a trio of musical madness, punctuated but also chaotic. Also good music, but far and away from the pop-centricity of the first few songs. “Three Trees” goes even deeper, a jazzy sloth of a song, (“sloth” here means something lazy but purposefully).

“Soma” is dark, undulating, and spiritual. It’s amazing what Marco pulls off with just a few instruments, but he’s also got an army of kickass musician friends to help him out, and to go along with any madness he dare generate.

The overall feel is more scattered than Between the Needles and Nightfall, but not necessarily in a bad way, as the sound changes up enough to keep the album fresh. While arguing that Marco’s doing the same ole’ same ole’ is viable, what exactly for Marco is the same ole’? There’s something positively recognizable about TigerFace, but it’s also got some playful chaos its predecessors don’t have.

More than anything, TigerFace sounds like the album Schroeder from Peanuts would have made- had he been real, and older, and from New York, and maybe on a few drugs- not that I’m suggesting anything about Marco, but he’s good at making it seem so.

Bottom line: Indie, tasteful instrumental jazz-rock is strange but pretty, familiar but new.


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