Ben Roque, 'Mad Andalusia' | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Music » Album Review

Ben Roque, 'Mad Andalusia'


Published May 22, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

Ben Roque, Mad Andalusia - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Ben Roque, Mad Andalusia

(Self-released, CD, digital)

Ben Roque admits to an insatiable desire to roam. And by learning to harness his own curiosity and risk tolerance, he's evolving as a musician, author and visual artist.

On Mad Andalusia, the fifth album he's recorded and released on his own, the Vermont native presents an alluring collection of original songs that, like his previous recordings, showcase his fascination with collage and the dexterity with which he applies the art form's principles to music.

Each of the 10 tracks is an assemblage, and together they testify to his abilities on piano, bass and guitar. Roque plays all the instruments on the record, conjoining sounds to beguiling effect. He's more assured and bolder than on previous albums, and his cagey vocals are the perfect complement to jams that groove, lurk and search for trouble.

The album's clamorous opener, "Charmed I'm Sure," marches on ritualistic drum patterns. His tone is evasive as he evokes imagery drawn from his time as a nomad, wandering and hunting unusual influences. "Spilled Perfume" longs with regret, though the emotions are fleeting, and it features Roque's tender hand on the piano, along with some of his most careful vocals on the record.

An intoxicating strut and another standout on Mad Andalusia, "Hatchetfish" features Roque at his most cunning and backed by vocalist Chris Avetta, the lone musician to join him on this endeavor. Together, they unnerve us as they harmonize on one of the most lasting lines of the album: "You never know without certain light."

Exhilarating and transportive, "Spanish Burgundy" uses acoustic guitar strums to stride to far-off space. "Bishop's Night Cap," a mischievous, frisky instrumental number, uses ambient sounds to set the scene of a bustling nearby gathering.

True to form, Roque recorded Mad Andalusia in three of his favorite places across the country: Albuquerque, N.M.; St. Louis, Mo., and Burlington. The album's title track pronounces this theme ever so clearly: "I keep on moving."

Long inspired by noir and lo-fi music, Roque is also an author with three books under his belt, including novels and the 2016 story collection Living Paint. In words as in music, he compiles fanciful episodes colored by observations from his endless searches, suggesting that he and his art are amalgams of his experiences.

Roque has grown more selective of his material since releasing There's Been a Murder, his 2015 debut. As he's said in interviews, he shifted his songwriting from first to third person beginning with his 2019 album, Amuser, and following suit for 2020's The Old Hush.

He used the cross-country tours supporting both of those albums as opportunities to find shadowy spaces and mysteries to ponder — the impetus for the recordings that followed each trip and a crucial aspect of a creative process with no end point.

Roque's latest is his most compelling sonic montage to date. Mad Andalusia exhibits the bravery required to sojourn in unfamiliar places and spotlights his propensity to thrive as an instinctive songwriter, one who regularly steps out of his comfort zone and finds motivation for songs in situations where others might see none.

Mad Andalusia is streaming now on all platforms.



Comments are closed.

From 2014-2020, Seven Days allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we've appreciated the suggestions and insights, right now Seven Days is prioritizing our core mission — producing high-quality, responsible local journalism — over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.