Ghost Funk Orchestra
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Over the course of seven studio albums and countless shows around the world, keyboardist Marco Benevento has amassed a devoted fanbase, while drawing praise from tastemakers far and wide. Los Angeles Times has written, “it’s safe to say that no one sees the keyboard quite like Marco Benevento's genre-blind mashup of indie rock, jazz and skewed improvisation," while NPR Music raves that Benevento combines "the thrust of rock, the questing of jazz and the experimental ecstasy of jam," and Rolling Stone praises "the textures and colors available in his keyboards and arsenal of manipulated pedals and effects along with his deceptively rich, catchy melodies and straight-ahead grooves."
Indeed, Marco Benevento’s music covers a wide swath of ground, seemingly connecting the dots in the vast space between LCD Soundsystem and Leon Russell, His songwriting is smart and earthy, yet simultaneously pulsating with dance rock energy. Benevento’s high energy live shows—fronting a three-piece band currently comprised by bassist Karina Rykman and drummer Chris Corsico—have led to numerous high profile appearances, ranging from Carnegie Hall to Pickathon. In the studio, he’s collaborated with the likes of Richard Swift (The Shins, Nathaniel Rateliff), Leon Michels (Lee Fields, Freddie Gibbs) and Simone Felice (The Felice Brothers, The Lumineers) among others.
On his latest album, simply titled, ‘Benevento,’ the Woodstock, NY-based artist dives deep down a psych funk rabbit hole, reimagining the current Zeitgeist of these troubled times through surrealistic optimism and the pure joy of an irresistible groove on tracks like “At The End Or The Beginning,” “Winter Rose” and “Do You Want Some Magic?”
GHOST FUNK ORCHESTRA
Each song on Ghost Funk Orchestra’s 3rd album, A New Kind of Love, resonates like the soundtrack to a scene from an imaginary movie. The music could score a romantic drama, an action thriller, or a modern twist on a classic film noir. The spare, cascading vocals accentuate the lush instrumental orchestrations composed, performed, arranged and produced by multi-instrumentalist Seth Applebaum, whose latest brainchild was conceived and conceptualized during The Great Pause of 2020, a time of tension, bewilderment and isolation. Evoking the grooviness of an era which preceded his arrival on earth, Applebaum draws upon sonic devices of mid-century exotica and the succinct but dense arranging style of the leaders of the pop orchestras which dominated the hit parades of the 60s and early 70s. He blends impressions of this bygone era with an expression of his actual experiences as a young filmmaker coming of age in the 21st century, citing influences such as Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and Antibalas. A New Kind of Love encompasses a reverence for the past without attempting to recreate it.
In the tradition of the “production forward” discographies of such record makers as David Axelrod and the Mizell Brothers, it’s easy to visualize Applebaum as a “mad doctor” figure, hunkered down in a studio channeling this musical representation of his inner world into the 12 compositions which make up A New Kind of Love. His writing stretches his psyche to explore a terrain in which to capture emotional notes of love going well, love gone sour, manifesting love songs based in ghostly affairs. While the studio is obviously a wondrous happy place of experimentation and creativity for Applebaum, he’s a band guy too (having actually fronted punk outfit The Mad Doctors). Applebaum has the wherewithal to bring his dreamy material to the 10 piece all star Ghost Funk Orchestra, leading them to breathe life into this sophisticated body of work which heralds the celebration of a new era for the group. Ghost Funk Orchestra will be touring in concert this summer and fall to celebrate the release of A New Kind of Love, an album which is sure to stand the test of time.
Ghost Funk Orchestra began as bandleader Seth Applebaum’s lo-fi recording project in 2014. They have been playing as part of New York City’s psych-rock and soul scenes, but have only just recently released their debut album, A Song for Paul. Five years might seem like a long time from a band’s conception to the release of their debut album, but A Song for Paul is clearly worth the wait.
While Ghost Funk Orchestra and A Song for Paul is Applebaum’s project, he uses nearly 20 musicians to realize his vision. The group consistently find the groove while successfully negotiating Applebaum’s detours into some combination of jazz/prog/psych rock that occurs in nearly every tune.
A Song for Paul is dedicated to Applebaum’s grandfather, Paul Anish, whose love of music was a huge influence on young Seth. But the spirit of another great music lover/music maker hovers over A Song for Paul as well, and that would be Isaac Hayes.
The Hayes connection is obvious in two specific songs. “Walk Like a Motherfucker”, the first full track after a short album-opening introduction, establishes the stoned 1970s funk feel that dominates the album. Although there are no backup singers telling vocalist Laura Gwynn to shut her mouth when she gets to that certain word. It seems likely Black Moses would have approved. And then, of course, another track is titled, “Isaac Hayes”, though it does not appear to be literally about Isaac Hayes
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