Tommy Babin’s Benzene
Your Body Is Your Prison (Drip Audio)
If you like your jazz smooth, safe, and readily available at your local Starbucks, you’ll want to stay far, far away from Your Body Is Your Prison, the debut disc by Tommy Babin’s Benzene. An exploration in psychedelic noise and headache-inducing improv, the album doesn’t exactly take aim at fans of Chris Botti.
Bandleader Babin eases listeners into the opening title track with his fluid bass playing, gently sliding from one note to the next, but it quickly becomes clear that he’s more interested in playing outside the box. Skye Brooks matches what becomes a haphazard bass line with skittish drum hits, placing cymbal stops wherever and whenever he can. Around the three-minute mark, guitarist Chad MacQuarrie and baritone saxophonist Chad Makela synch up into a panicked run that erupts into a brash free-for-all.
Recorded live in the studio in one take, the nine-song suite fittingly plays out like a large piece. The brooding, reverberated crypt-crawl “The Thing And I” segues perfectly into the hard-rockin’ “Citizen Kang”, this thanks to Makela’s terse sax tootling.
While its more impromptu moments can be hard to follow—Benzene’s solo spotlight “Interlude” is a full minute of mangled, unscripted bass noodling— the combo can pull things together to make conventional music. “Pretty Boy Floyd,” for instance, settles into a giddily sexy groove that’s equal parts krautrock and Afrobeat. Though the back half of Your Body Is Your Prison plays out a bit mellower, the band freaks it up one last time, as skronked-out sax noise and busy scale work compete for attention on “The Sky Beneath My Feet.”
Though Tommy Babin’s Benzene may not convert the faint-of-heart, the inventiveness of this triumph is to admired. Unless, that is, you’re trying to enjoy a Dark Cherry Mocha latte at Starbucks.
Download This: “Pretty Boy Floyd”