Audio Mixer: Chris Bittner.
Recording information: Fred Short, Saugerties, NY.
Photographer: Monika Rivard.
Jazz keyboardist-turned-indie pop auteur Marco Benevento has carved out a distinctive niche with his expansive, unpredictable sound. A Berklee College of Music grad, Benevento first came to prominence as a regular performer in New York's avant-garde and experimental music scene. Since 2012's TigerFace, however, Benevento has increasingly incorporated his own vocals, as well as a lyrical, if off-kilter, pop sensibility into his recordings. With his 2016 album, The Story of Fred Short, he continues to hone this approach with an ambitious album of synthy, psych-infused pop, more than half of which consists of a seven-part title-track composition. The story goes that Benevento became increasingly intrigued by the namesake of the road where he lives and records in upstate New York, Fred Short. After learning that Short had been a local Native American Shaman, and acquiring a piano purportedly once owned by Short, Benevento was inspired to begin writing songs about the legendary figure. In typical unpredictable Benevento style, the album actually begins with four cuts not included in his "Fred Short" piece. These are all lyrical, hooky songs featuring old-school-sounding keyboards, a mix of real and programmed drums, and in the case of "Heavy Metal Floating Upstream," fuzzed-out electric guitars; the first time Benevento has incorporated guitars into his music. The rest of the album is taken up with the seven "Story of Fred Short" movements and features a similar mix of instrumentation with cuts like "Seven Twenty Two," "Walking with Tyrone," and "I Can't See the Light," bringing to mind the kaleidoscopic arrangements and bass-heavy dance-rock sound of the Flaming Lips. Similarly, tracks like "Live a Certain Life" and "Follow the Arrow," with their swirling, groove-oriented riffs and densely layered instrumentation, bring to mind the late-'60s psych-rock of the Beatles. ~ Matt Collar