Beneficials are what I imagine happens when you meld the best parts of shoe gaze, math rock, post-rock, grunge, and space age pop. Honestly, take any genre and throw it into that list, the amalgam-rock of Beneficials is beyond comprehension and beyond impressive. Their debut album, Torn Cloud, shows the band flexing their compositional chops — with complex structures, the mostly instrumental work is some of the most exhilarating music I’ve heard all year.
There is something euphoric yet apocalyptic about each song, with glitches and clangs coming in right as the twinkling spacious clusters of atmosphere have gotten you settled in. Sitting somewhere between Alex G, Tiny Gun, and Drug Bug, the Chicago band is acting on a well-thought out vision and pulling it off with ease.
The album starts out with a field recorded “2009 - ICHC” followed by 5 minutes of solid gold with the first real track “Blue Waves”. The first two songs set the stage for what’s to come on the almost hour-long sonic journey, as they explore every nook and cranny of the Holy House of Rock and Roll. The entire record takes you through every imaginable color palette as Beneficials lays down layer upon layer onto their sanctified masterpiece of an album.
On “Queen of Wands” the vocals sound a bit more like Hovvdy meets Stephen Malkmus, with elements of nu-metal present in the percussive build-ups. Toying with their levels of intensity, the band creates a lyrical bed of instrumentals in the extended breaks between verses.
Clocking in at 8:19, the longest track on the album, “Sky Burial,” oscillates between a chimey blur and a more driven textural airspace. The blurry vocal harmonies only taking on one or two lines at either end of the piece, seeming almost ornamental in Beneficial’s ambitious approach music-making.
“Stone Fruit” takes the band into a whole different world, starting off with jangly-pop clangs and Beatles-esque melodies before jumping into a pool of metal riffs while the shimmery tones of the other guitar maintain dream-like state. It’s a fucking trip.
Then there are tracks like “Candy,” which takes the simplistic synth pop elements present in works such as the soundtrack to Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know (by composer Michael Andrews), and confront them with a sound wall of static. The result has the listener walking out of reality and into a hazy daydream.
Torn Cloud is certainly a sophisticated work worth taking the time to experience in full.
Standout tracks: Queen of Wands, Sky Burial, Stone Fruit, Candy