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Benchimol, Sérgio: A Drop In The Ocean…An Ocean In A Drop

Once it finally hits you, A Drop In The Ocean is a pretty astounding piece of work. Produced by its two chief players, multi-instrumentalist Sérgio Benchimol and flautist-saxophonist David Ganc, a remarkable degree of clarity is achieved: either with a pair of excellent speakers, shelf monitors, or (my preference) a pair of quality headphones, the album sounds seriously real. Though not shabby, by any means, this is what Musical Witchcraft's albums should sound like: cotton-crisp and resolutely radiant. About as eclectic as the genre gets, the Brazilian Benchimol's altar gift to world fusion invites comparisons to Strunz & Farah, Al Di Meola's World Sinfonia, Ravi Shankar, Liona Boyd, and Cabezas de Cera, while sounding like all of them and none of them.

After a few listens, the title of A Drop In The Ocean…An Ocean In A Drop proves to be not-so-obvious — its seventy-seven consecutive minutes can be a lot to take in, due to the number of tracks, multi-layers of stylistic nuances and compositional gradients that embody this richly textured recording. Setting an imaginary boundary line between "Exodus" (or as early as "The Hunt") and the title track helps distinguish A Drop as a virtual double album with two essentially acoustic sides, and two somewhat heavier, more electric sides — in this case, "heavier" is relative, not to be taken too literally. Benchimol performs on piano and keyboards, acoustic and electric bass, sitar and other instruments, and is the composer of all nineteen compositions. David Ganc is credited with some arranging, including the nice cello part on "Bamidbar." Additional hired guns, all more than capable of their assigned tasks, include drummer Rafael Barata, oboist Carlos Prazeres, percussionist Edu Szjainbrum, and Sérgio's son Michel, who vocalizes on "Carrossel."

"Terral" and "Memórias de Viagens" instantly showcase flamenco guitar flourishes, lush piano diversions, and brisk flute leads — Ganc's woodwinds are integral to the mosaic. "Jardim das Delícias" is one of only four songs that features vocals (by Benchimol) — two in Portuguese, two in English. The vocal part only occupies a few measures, mixed lower than Luciano Vaz's delicate oboe melody, Edu Szjainbrum's subtle tabla punctuations, and Benchimol's sitar. The eight-minute piece picks up steam in the second half with flute and piano complements; the end result is exquisite. The most commercial number, "The Hunt" is fuelled by electric guitar (a rarity on this album) and soprano sax, plus a forgettable vocal line. "Falling Times" is similarly grounded and further emphasizes that a substandard vocal melody is unnecessary when the instrumentation is duly potent. "A Drop In The Ocean" is a striking foray into jazz~rock that opens the door to a more conventional sound in the second half: boppy sax replaces delicate flute and Benchimol plugs in his electric bass. "Estrelas do Amanhecer" is the best song with lyrics, since said aspect is rather diminished, and the finger-picked acoustic guitar and fuzzed bass are what command your attention.

For anyone solemnized by torrents of mundane metal or nettlesome neo-prog (the majority, not the entirety), instrumental albums (prog or not) are potential salves, and the progressive world fusion of A Drop In The Ocean is one very refreshing tonic. This title is most recommended to fans of the Solaris side project, Musical Witchcraft — there are many elements common between the two, but A Drop steers you toward the Latin side of the global court.

Tracklist:

1. Terral 4:26
2. Janelas do Céu 3:37
3. Memórias de Viagens 6:50
4. Bamidbar 4:21
5. Toca da Cigarra 3:17
6. Bossa Rio Jazz Walz 3:29
7. Jardim das Delícias 8:09
8. Maracatu 3:42
9. Moriá 3:52
10. The Hunt 4:15
11. Falling Times 4:06
12. Exodus 2:57
13. A Drop in the Ocean 4:27
14. A Rocha e o Mar 4:29
15. Unpack Bagus 2:38
16. Estrelas do Amanhecer 3:03
17. 49a Porta 2:41
18. Carrossel 2:41 (Carousel)
19. The Last Call 3:47

Total time – 77:19

Added: October 3rd 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Score:
Related Link: www.RockProgressivo.com
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Language: english

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