PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Marco Benevento: Invisible Baby

Thomas Hauner

Marco Benevento’s solo studio debut covers a broad sonic spectrum by any instrumental standards.

Marco Benevento

Invisible Baby

Label: Hyena
US Release Date: 2008-02-12
UK Release Date: 2008-03-03

Marco Benevento, of the Benevento/Russo Duo, has been frequently compared to keyboardist John Medeski of Medeski Martin & Wood, much like the Duo has been compared to Medeski’s trio. However experimental Medeski’s sounds are he gravitates towards soul jazz, blues, and funk most regularly. But unlike Medeski, Benevento, on his debut studio album Invisible Baby, indulges the listener in a wide sonic spectrum, from electro-indie-pop to ballads Billy Joel could sing his heart out to, at once distinguishing himself from the revered player and emphasizing the dexterity that has helped his group earn respect and admiration from the most eminent of jam band royalty, Mike Gordon and Trey Anastasio.

It was while on tour with Anastasio in 2006 that Benevento began seriously writing and recording for a solo project that first led to his recording of a live album that fall -- Live at Tonic -- and concluded with this studio release. Several pieces from Invisible Baby can be found on that live recording under misnomers and performed with mostly different personnel, though Anastasio’s partner in crime, Gordon, is featured.

Continuing with the jam band incest Anastasio, in fact, composed the banjo line in Benevento’s opening track, "Bus Ride". Displacing its seminal genial sound is Reed Mathis (of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) and his thunderously distorted bass, echoing the industrial sound of Benevento’s (bio)diesel tour bus, and pounding acoustic piano chords. The cyclical sounds of the banjo, Mathis’ bass, and the opening keyboard line suggest the tediousness of touring, but the celestial acoustic piano chords and streaming runs mitigate such misgivings.

It takes the first third of the second track, "Record Book", before the comforting melody of major piano chords establishes itself from the mélange of desolate, somewhat ominous sounds. Unlike his work with the Duo, here, and throughout the album, Benevento’s main voice is acoustic piano. Employed effectively, it provides greater emotional depth and articulation to his work, especially when highlighted against numerous effects and electronics. Texturally diverse playing by drummer Andrew Barr also adds to the track's emotional consistency.

Surprisingly, "Atari" is not the most electronic-infused track on the album. Though the perpetuity of its drums and accompanying racing pulse recollect reaching stratospheric levels in Tetris, "The Real Morning Party" is in fact the reigning electro-indie-pop tune. Sounding like the ultimate accompaniment to the penultimate Super Mario Brothers speed record, the track hurls pixilated fireballs, collects ringing golden coins, and propels ebullient Mario to rescue Princess Toadstool with even enough time for a percussion breakdown.

Marco Benevento - The Real Morning Party

An equally plausible application would be to throw in some apathy, a dose of whiny anti-establishment lyrics, grab some dilapidated black Chucks and skinny jeans and call it indie-pop rock. But the song’s youthful exuberance is appealing and highlights the multifaceted ideas that continually flow through Benevento.

Like "Record Book", "You Must Be a Lion" exudes lust and heartache, its minor-tinged, blithe major chords producing a melancholy yet burdened tone, not unlike the Beatles’ "Martha My Dear".

Going forward there are more Beatles similarities, however they concern texture. In the intro and ending to Benevento’s most dissonant and psychedelic track, "If You Keep on Asking Me", he emulates the Beatles’ then experimental Mellotron and tape loops from "Tomorrow Never Knows" by utilizing his arsenal of circuit bent toys and keyboards and large, old spring reverbs culminating in a vivid musique concrète. Benevento likens the resulting song to "being slightly annoyed, and focused at the same time".

"Ruby" is the album’s redemption song acting as a harbinger of the album’s imminent resolve. Named after Benevento's daughter, the piece emulates the sensation of a child falling asleep in its parent’s arms. The paternal feeling came to Benevento in a dream before her birth and serves as an emotional oasis for him after. Like other tracks, this piece prominently features circuit bent instruments and, more appropriately, toys during the introduction before dissolving behind the soothing piano and gentle ride cymbal.

As Benevento’s favorite track on the album, "Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?" embodies the range of textures and sounds permeating the album. The piece, Benevento’s best effort at fusing his ornamental electronic sounds with his powerful acoustic playing, begins like tepid water in a tea kettle, ambiguous and diffused with indolent energy, but quickly boils and then explodes with steam, unleashing the piece. Much like the music of Radiohead, the track intensifies and manifests, then broils with energy and feeling, and finally exhausting itself, diminishes into the haze from which it rose. Embellishing the song’s epic arc equally is Matt Chamberlain’s drumming and dynamics and Benevento’s arpeggiating chords and syncopations.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.