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Performer
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Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Riccardo Damian (slide guitar, synthesizer, programming); Emily McGregor (violin); Jason Montero (Fender Rhodes piano).
  • Audio Mixer: Riccardo Damian.
  • Recording information: Tileyard Studios, London.
  • Under the banner of Montero, Australian musician and visual artist Ben Montero creates an eccentric amalgam of laid-back psychedelia, lush synth pop, and vintage soft rock, presented with both a wry smile and some genuine warmth. A smattering of independent singles preceded his 2013 full-length debut, The Loving Gaze, as did his involvement in a host of jangly lo-fi acts like Treetops, Holiday Maker, and later, Early Woman. While his fondness for collaborations remains an element of Montero, this project is ultimately a declaration of self, offered here on his sophomore release, Performer, with a fully realized visual aesthetic to accompany his vibrant pop wanderings. In the years between his two LPs, Montero became more widely recognized as a cartoonist and designer, and the wild Technicolor illustrations adorning Performer's cover mirror the heady music contained within. Recorded at Mark Ronson's Tileyard Studios in London, there is somewhat of a big pop element to the album's production, with fellow Aussie Jay Watson (Tame Impala, Pond) and in-house engineer Riccardo Damien on board to help stack the many layers of synths, guitars, and vocals. Acting as both introduction and overture, "Montero Airlines" sets the tone and establishes what seems to be Montero's predominant mode of borderline whimsical midtempo rock balladry in the vein of masters like the Beatles, Harry Nilsson, and Electric Light Orchestra. Only a handful of tracks diverge from this stylistic construction (the thudding dark synth pop of "Quantify" and the sprightly '70s pop of "Destiny"), but to his credit, he's got it down pat and delivers some real gems in the Lennon-esque "Caught Up in My Own World" and the excellent "Running Race," which sports a winsome melody worthy of an early Bee Gees single. The mighty "Vibrations" captures the thick ELO filter and is another solid song to boot. There are some missteps like the clunky and far too long "Tokin' the Night Away," but overall, Performer is quite a lot of fun and an aural delight for aficionados of classic '60s and '70s pop with an experimental indie twist. ~ Timothy Monger
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