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CD Feature/ Joseph Benzola: "Dig the New Breed"

img  Tobias
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Two closely connected terms play a vital role in the work of Joseph Benzola: The ritual and the dead. “Crippled Symmetry” was an almost one-hour long shamanic invocation and “A Tragedy” off “Winter in America” a dirge for the victims of 9/11. Musical portraits of dead legends can be found on all of his three solo albums. Still, Benzola is neither one of those musicians who refuses to face the present (because the past always shines more golden), nor a pessimist.

Quite to the contrary, his albums are testaments to the belief that the body of an artist may leave this earth, but his spirit doesn’t die – and that one can tap into it again to shape the future. So, if “Dig the new breed” kicks off with biographies of trumpet player Lester Bowie and drum-legend Tony Williams (he hit the snare with Miles Davis at the tender age of 17), this is neither a subtle form of irony, nor the beginning of a retro-trip. Rather, these tracks ride the same wave of creative energy, carving out new shapes and forms. The “Lester Bowie” portrait especially wanders through a plethora of naive soundscapes and bizarre aural meditations, with a harmonica and a vibraphone duetting, percussions being hit in seemingly random order, cow bells rattling and electronic space effects beaming in from distant planets. One moment, it sounds like a children’s birthday party, then again like a tea ceremony in a buddhist monastery. In each case, it does Bowie full justice, who was known to have built his peculiar and unique style round the “mistakes he made when learning the instrument”. From then on, the album takes twists and turns, although never for fear of boring the listener, but purely for the fun of following the bizarre, but inspiring meanderings of the mind’s stream of consciousness. “The Conversation” is a dark landscape with a robotic voice talking to itself with an indifferent tone, “Epiphany” a cosmic organ/drum experiment, while “Boll Weevil” uses subsonar, nightmarish choir fantasies and an old jazz sample to create the apocalyptic ambiance of early drum n bass dub plates – but the drums never kick in. With a strung-out piano imprvisation and two cut-up miniatures at the end, this record should be breaking apart at every second. But it never does.

The freason for this can be found in the very first of the terms we used to describe Benzola’s work: Beneath the layers of seeming madness and improvisational frenzy, there is not a single note hit in random order. All of the music follows a pattern, which words may not be able to describe properly, but the body will follow if only allowed to subjetc itself entirely. “Dig the new breed “is a ritual – and a ritual of life to boot.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage:Joseph Benzola
Homepage: Joseph Benzola at Amanita Music

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