by Mike O’Brien
Can we live harmoniously, organically, within a digital world system? Can we merge nature and technology to create a flowing existence in which both scenarios are possible? Is the steadfast reality of today redeemable only today, or does tomorrow offer a fresh slate, a new chance?
“All of it is salvageable. Everything we have done. Everything we have become, and everything we have yet to do and become, is redeemable. I know this because it is likely all going on at the same time. Our entire lives, and all events throughout eternity. All at this very moment, somehow and somewhere.”
—Dean De Benedictis
So, then, how are we to grasp the best parts of our past and avoid our larger mistakes in the future? De Benedictis answers these questions in musical fashion, blending both old-world instruments and digital newness in the search for Salvaging the Present.
Being at once a slow dive into introspection, the album belies its theme, bringing multiple other talented musicians to the recording space, entwining their efforts on songs envisioned and written by De Benedictis himself. Collaborative in name but personal in sound, the opening track sets the mood for the entire journey. There is a distinctly organic feel mixed in between sparse percussive and light glitch elements. As if the forests are tuning in to the frequency of a supercomputer, the evocative swells and dives associated bring forth a fresh breath of neoclassical grandeur.
The feeling with this work is both cavernous and intimate. Atmosphere is deep and even, filling the wide spaces between note and trill. Unabashed nostalgia mixes with a romanticizing of the fusion of past, present, and future as a common theme throughout. The instrumentation exists within the boundaries of itself, measured and effusive. Great care has been taken to meld field recording and cello strike alike. This is plaintively evident in “Never the Sacred Stretch” as floating ambience gives way to bass plucks and mellotron rambling, overlaying saxophone and percussive elements. At once haunting and heavenly, it never decides to grow up; rather, the album waits for innocuous moments and quiet spaces to really showcase its depth.
One not attuned could easily pass this off as simply eclectic new-age ambient. Its basis, appropriately, delves into instrumentation of such. But in a moment’s time, the narrative has changed, the winding tendrils of sound and beat climax into something altogether new, fresh, and unexpected. There is no pretense here beyond the experience. Fans of Mythos in particular will understand what’s at play here, though De Benedictis takes it a step further, shunning spotlight on any one line or instrument in favor of work as a true collective endeavor.
Surely our past haunts us, our present frustrates us, and our future constantly eludes us. Such is the beauty of suffering and the true joy of creation. All boundaries fade with the expression of oneness—a clarion call from our primitive past to our future selves. Salvaging the Present reminds us that we are one entity, one coil, and one constantly evolving helix of self-awareness and understanding. In this experience, we find that the present is not only salvageable, but the only true place to learn, to grow, and to find ourselves truly, with no apologies, and most importantly, with no regrets.