Music Reviews

Artist: Dean De Benedictis (@)
Title: Salvaging the Present
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
The second Spotted Peccary release in today's reviews comes from Dean De Benedictis, an artist with rich and varied credentials going back to 1990's. He's the son of TV series music composer Dick De Benedictis (Perry Mason 1985-93, Columbo, Rockford Files, Matlock, etc.) and has been releasing his own recordings since 1996. With a background in jazz fusion and progressive rock bands (he performed with Brand X on tour in 2004), Dean gravitated toward electronic and techno-tribal, influenced by such artists as Tangerine Dream, Mark Isham, Steve Roach, Robert Rich and Loren Nerell. He's had releases under the alias Surface 10 as well as under his own name. De Benedictis is the founder of both Fateless Records, and the Fateless Flows Collective, a Los Angeles group of electronic composers. Dean is also the co-founder and producer of Cyberstock, an outdoor music concert and visual arts display held in the Santa Monica Mountains. With all that in mind, it's a wonder that 'Salvaging the Present' is my first experience with his music.

Seldom does a one-sheet (the promo text accompanying the release provided by the label and/or artist for the review) do much more than hype the release, and I usually hate quoting them, but in this case, it's quite relevant. "Through the creative use of musical instruments and sound design tools, De Benedictis scores an emotionally deep, aesthetically appealing and technologically sophisticated triumph, blending organic and electronic expressions into a compelling panorama of music and sound." That just about nails it. But he didn't do it entirely alone - guests include Percy Jones (bass), Alexey Gorokholinskiy (clarinet), Peter Ludwig (cello and voice), Lisa Claire Mitterer (vocals), D'von Charley (native flute), Jim Goetsch (sax) and Angelo Elonte (violin). 'Salvaging the Present' is so far removed from what we've come to think of as ambient, that it is "sui generis," something entirely in its own genre. Yes, there are deep ambient passages, some techno-tribal, a nod to classical, world music, experimental, and more, but it has a special vibe to it that can't be pigeonholed.

It's grand and spacious, yet well-grounded. Sometimes heavenly, sometimes rhythmic, sometimes both simultaneously. The album has nine tracks, all of them over six minutes and under ten. The first track alone, "To the Ends of Elation" is a minor masterpiece with a richness and musicality that rivals anything in the cinematic ambient realm I've heard in a long, long time. It only gets better from there, and I'm actually awed by what I'm hearing. An incredible variety of moods and motifs that enthrall the listener, this is the kind of ambient that you want to pump up the volume for, not relegate to the background. So in that sense 'Salvaging the Present' is much more than just ambient; it is symphonic ambient without the strictures of classical music, or any traditional musical format. Yet, there are elements that will be familiar, and the way they are blended within the context of these soundscapes is indeed remarkable. This is really a beautiful album through and through, worthy of its lofty rating, and highly recommended.

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