LIVE REVIEW: Mutual Benefit @ Bowery Ballroom

What started off as a raging race around Lower East Side for a parking spot turned into a placid, serene anchorage at Bowery Ballroom. Bellows, Soft Cat and the halcyonic Mutual Benefit played a hell of a show at one of our favorite spots on Delancey.
It was beyond remarkable to see the whole live band of the evening playing these harmoniously tranquil yet riveting orchestral songs. Vocalist Jordan Lee was definitely not shy at the show, playing alongside his sister. I was lucky to have been a part of the family reunion, for Lee is known for traveling with ever-changing band members. I love the Bowery for its capability of housing a few New York City blocks while keeping its intimacy for fans. Even while posting up back-in-center or front-right, the violin resonated in the joints of my body as though they were being bowed. They opened with “Strong River” and played my favorites “Auburn Epitaphs” and “Advanced Falconry.” “Golden Awake” was as harmonic performed on stage as it was listening to it on my headphones in my quiet home. That was impressive in itself, the audience muted like Central Park’s ‘quiet zone’ to appreciate every band member’s piece.
Mutual Benefit performs live with a sensitivity and tranquility on par with their poetic lyrics. Their 2011 EP, I Saw the Sea, was primarily about the ocean and its alternating and dynamic beauty, as described by Lee. Being a part of the performance washed that grace over me; I was nothing short of mesmerized by the perfect patting on the long bongos or the violinist fiddling with his hands shaking the bow and fingering infinitely with Lee as their captain.

ALBUM REVIEW: Mutual Benefit “Love’s Crushing Diamond”

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=In reading the title Love’s Crushing Diamond, one might expect to hear an album full of screeching metalheads lamenting their mistakes in love. Mutual Benefit’s release is quite the opposite. It is flowy and ethereal and light-as-air and takes the listener on a journey alongside singer Jordan Lee as he sweetly explains his views on life and love.

From the opening track, Lee sets the tone of what to expect: “Strong River” is introduced with the sound of chimes blown together by the wind as the music wanes in and out with various string and woodwind instruments. Lee doesn’t sing until near the end, and when he does, it’s in a calming and soft — albeit a bit shaky — voice. That shakiness only adds to the charm of Lee’s well composed pieces. Lee has admitted to have created some of his earlier music during times when he was under the influence of psychedelics; and while this album has a psychedelic touch to it, it’s equally polished and exemplifies Lee’s professionalism and positive spirit that has evolved since he began making music.

Lee’s lyrics compliment the comforting sound of the instruments. They are overwhelmingly positive, which is pretty rare to come across when delivered in such a soft manner. In “Golden Wake,” he croons, “We weren’t made to be this way/ we weren’t made to be afraid,” after talking about quitting his job and the way his mind wanders. He then sings of his head and heart joining together to destroy the hold time has on him. Later, in “Let’s Play/ Statue of a Man,” he sings, “There’s always love, even when you think there’s none to give.” Comforting and motivational.

Album standout “Advanced Falconry” consists of the same flowy style as other tracks, but seems to offer a little bit more than the rest, with grand, swelling violins opening the track and plucky banjo and percussion providing support. He sings about a girl who seems to be out of his reach, but he doesn’t mind. He’s content to simply listen to her talk, although he can’t make out what she’s saying.

Many of the tracks feature a female vocalist joining Lee for sweet harmonies. On “The Light That’s Blinding,” they are also accompanied by piano, the addition of which contributes a distinct melody that gives it a different feel overall, while maintaining  the calming style prominent on other tracks.  Almost every song begins with an instrumental section, which makes for a nice introduction, keeping the flow and providing continuity from track to track, as if no more or no fewer songs are needed.

Closing track, “Strong Swimmer” channels the ocean and waxes metaphorical about overcoming rough waves. Lee previously dedicated a six-track album to the sea, but this song still sounds fresh and admiring of the powerful natural element.

Lee wants to celebrate the mystery and joy that is life, and does it well through this collection of calm, yet upbeat tracks. In a time when synth-heavy music seems to prevail and abound, it is a nice break to hear Lee’s multi-instrumental styling.

Listen to Mutual Benefit’s “Let’s Play/Statue Of A Man” here, via Soundcloud:

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