MOP MOP-LUNAR LOVE.

MOP MOP-LUNAR LOVE.

Growing up, music was always a huge part of Andrea Benini’s life. He started to play the guitar when he was ten. By the time he was fourteen, Andrea Benini had switched to drums. This would stand him in good stead later in life.

Towards the end of 1999, twenty-two year old Andrea Benini moved to Bologna where he studied African-American and contemporary music. Then in 2000, Andrea took a job as a journalist, working for the Italian magazine Percussioni. This was how he spent the next three years. However, deep down Andrea wanted to embark upon a career in music.

It wasn’t until 2005, before Andrea Benini decided to form his current musical vehicle Mop Mop. By then Andrea was already twenty-eight. So with bassist Bruno Briscik, pianist Alex Trebo, percussionist Danilo Mineo, saxophonist Guglielmo Pagnozzi and Pasquale Mirra on vibes, Andrea began making up for lost time.

Later in 2005, Mop Mop their debut album The 11th Pill. It was released firstly in Europe, and then in Japan. Quickly, the album found an audience, and tracks from The 11th Pill found their way on several compilations. This augured well for Mop Mop’s sophomore album.

It looked as of Mop Mop were in no hurry to release their sophomore album. Three long years passed before Mop Mop were ready to release Kiss Of Kali in 2008. It featured Italian jazz trombonist Gianluca Petrella and vocalist Alan Farrington. They played their part in album that was well received by critics; and introduced Mop Mop’s music to a wider audience.

Buoyed by the success of Kiss Of Kali, Mop Mop returned with their third album Ritual Of The Savage in April 2010. It was Mop Mop’s most ambitious album to date. Ritual Of The Savage featured not just a string and horn section, but an appearance by vocalist Baby Sol and Alan Farrington. The result was an album that received plaudits and praise from critics. Mop Mop’s star was in the ascendancy.

So much so, that Mop Mop’s music was about to make its debut on a film soundtrack. In June 2012, Woody Allen was preparing for the release of To Rome With Love. He had written, directed and featured in To Rome With Love. The soundtrack to the film featured Mop Mop’s Three Times Bossa. When To Rome With Love was released in July 2012, critics agreed that it was far from a classic Woody Allen movie. Some went as far as to say that the soundtrack out-shawn the film. While To Rome With Love was a disappointing movie, Mop Mop had at least entered into the world of soundtracks. After this, his thoughts turned to his next album.

For Mop Mop’s fourth album, Isle Of Magic he was joined by a high profile guest…funk trombonist Fred Wesley. The other special guest was British poet Anthony Joseph who added vocals. Once Isle Of Magic was complete, it was released in 2013. Isle Of Magic was hailed as the best album of Mop Mop’s eight year and four album career. Surely it wouldn’t be long before Mop Mop returned with the followup?

Since then, all has been quiet on the Mop Mop front. Three years after the release of their fourth album Isle Of Magic, Mop Moop recently returned with the long-awaited followup Lunar Love. It was recently released by Agogo Records, and features a cast of ten guest artists and an eclectic array of instruments.

For Mop Mop’s fifth album Lunar Love, Andrea penned twelve tracks. They would be recorded by Andrea Benini and his extended band. The core band featured pianist and synth player Alex Trebo; percussionist Danilo Mineo; saxophonist Guglielmo Pagnozzi and Pasquale Mirra on vibes, marimba, glockenspiel and balafo. They’re joined by bassist Salvatore Lauriola; guitarist Davide Angelica; Max Castlunger on steel drums and kalimba; Telonio on ARP; Nicola Peruch adds electronics and synths and Christoph Matenaers on idiophone. Completing this cast of guest artists are vocalists Anthony Joseph, Wayne Snow and Annabel Ellis. Andrea Benini plays drums, drum machine, percussion and adds vocals. He also arranges and produces Lunar Love, which you’ll soon realise,  is a genre-melting album.

Lunar Love is an album in four parts. The first part, which features Alfa, Adhara and Totem is entitled The Journey. Straight away, there’s a wistful sound to the slow, spacious arrangement. It features just steel drums and percussion, while  water drips. This adds to the ruminative cinematic sound. 

So do the sci-fi sounds that open Adhara. Then it’s all change. Shuffling drums join keyboards, percussion and guitars. Suddenly, elements of jazz, Latin and Caribbean music combine. Guitar runs escape from the arrangement, as an electric piano plays. However, drums and percussion lock into a groove to create the shuffling arrangement. Stealing the show, are the guitar solo. Still, cinematic describes the arrangement, as if a story is about to unfold. That’s until a melancholy piano closes Adhara.

Totem is the final part in The Journey, and features vocalist Anthony Joseph. Stabs of crackling synths and a myriad of percussion combine with drums to create the backdrop for Anthony’s soliloquy. It tips its hat to Robbie Robertson in Somewhere Down That Crazy River. Flourishes and stabs of dramatic synths join the exotic array of percussion. Pasquale Mirra has an equally exotic musical arsenal, and can draw upon vibes, marimba, glockenspiel and balafon. Playing the starring role is Anthony’s whispery vocal, as his leaves the listener with his final words: “to be born again.

Spaceship: Earth is the first part in The Awakening. Straight away, jangling percussion is panned left and trickles from the arrangement. Meanwhile, a chiming guitar, funky bass and vibes combine. They set the scene for Anthony Joseph’s vocal. It’s rueful, and tinged with frustration, but always soulful. He sings of past mistakes and the future in anther world. Still the arrangement is slow, spacious and almost mesmeric. Later, his vocal is almost impassioned as he sings: “let me land this ship” and with a buzzing bass synth and washes of synths for company, sings: ”space will be my home.” 

Dramatic and futuristic describes Omega. There’s almost progressive rock sound to the synths and organ. Cinematic describes the arrangement, and it’s early to imagine a spaceship gliding in search of distant galaxies. Later, washes of synths  

play their part in this space symphony where Mop Mop go in search of Omega, the twenty-fourth star in the galaxy.

Lunar Love is the final part in The Awakening trilogy. Steel drums play, while an acid bass synth and stabs of piano combine. They create a reggae-tinged backdrop. That is despite the piano playing the starring role. Brief bursts of sinister, whispery vocals are added. They make only the briefest of appearances. However, the acid synth joins the piano, and although they’re musical polar opposites work well together with the drums. This triumvirate combine to create a beautiful and elegiac track.

The Barber opens part three, The Experience trilogy. Just percussion, vibes and rumbling drums create a dramatic backdrop for Anthony Joseph’s slow, deliberate vocal. As he delivers the cinematic lyrics, they add to the drama. Together, they create a moody backdrop that’s reminiscent of Dr. John’s early albums. Thats’s apart from the synths that sweep in and out. They’re joined by shimmering and chirping guitars, rolls of vibes and rumbling drums. However, it’s Anthony’s vocal that has the listener captivated, and adds to the theatre and drama of this cinematic track.

The tempo rises, as Mop Mop take the listener on a journey on Habibi. Percussion and the rhythm section combine to drive the arrangement along. Atop the arrangement, vibes play, and send out a warning. Again, there’s a cinematic sound that allows the listener let their imagination run riot. As the vibes sends out a warning, it is like being in a train in the Wild West as is careers out of control. All the signalman can do is ring the bell. Other times, the track sounds as if it belongs in a modern day Spaghetti Western. By then, elements of jazz, Latin and Lounge combine, before the arrangement slows and is stripped bare. Just a subtle, but mesmeric backdrop is left before the arrangement briefly heads in the direction of avant-garde before taking on a thoughtful sound. 

Atmospheric; describes the introduction to Plato, which opens the final movement Close Encounters. Soon, the rumbling rhythm section join with percussion and piano. They lock into a genre-melting groove. Funk, jazz, Latin and Afro-beat play their part in the track. So do a searing guitar, jazz-tinged piano and marimba. Midway through the track, it becomes piano lead jazzy jam. That is despite the exotic, funky and tribal backdrop. Then when the jazz influence drops out, exotic describes the arrangement. Later, Pasquale Mirra unleashes a marimba solo as  bursts of funky guitar play a supporting role in this genre-melting epic.

Straight away, The Serpent takes on a dark, dramatic sound. Deliberate chords are played on the piano, as percussion reverberate and drums combine. They set the scene for Anthony Joseph’s whispery, dramatic vocal. Meanwhile, washes of synths replicate a howling gale, while the piano plays the same chords. This adds to drama and hypnotic nature of the track. Later, it briefly becomes jazz-tinged, as the howling gale and lyrics add to the cinematic nature of The Serpent. It features Mop Mop at their inventive best.

Supreme features another of the guest vocalists, Wayne Snow. he scats, before steel drums play. They’re joined by a buzzing synth, drum machine and marimba. By then, genres are melting into one. Electronica, Nu Soul and reggae combine seamlessly, and create a quite beautiful summery sounding ballad. 

Foreign Correspondents closes Lunar Love, and features Annabel. A slow, shimmering guitar ushers in Annabel’s thoughtful, rueful vocal. She’s joined by vibes, percussion and shimmering guitar. It adds a cinematic sound to the arrangement, as Annabel’s vocal becomes wistful, and tinged with sadness.

Forty years ago, bands would never have waited three years before releasing another album. Often, bands were contracted to release two albums per year. Sadly, things have changed, and a three years between albums isn’t unusual. This can backfire.

People can forget about a band, and move on to new artists and bands. Then there’s always the possibility that music will change, and a band’s music will no longer be relevant. However, that’s not happened to Mop Mop.

Three years have passed since Mop Mop released their fourth album Isle Of Magic. However, Mop Moop recently returned with the long-awaited fifth album Lunar Love. It was released by Agogo Records, and finds Mop Mop joined by a cast of ten guest artists and an eclectic array of instruments. They’re responsible for Lunar Love’s genre-melting sound on Lunar Love.

Everything from dub, electronica and funk, to avant-garde, jazz and progressive rock rubs shoulders with Afro-beat, Caribbean, Latin, Lounge and soul on Lunar Love. Over the four parts of Lunar Love, Mop Mop take the listener on a musical journey. It’s variously beautiful, dark, dramatic, elegiac, hypnotic, melodic, mesmeric, moody and wistful. However, for much of Lunar Love the music is cinematic. Especially on the instrumentals, where the listener can let their imagination run riot. Other times, there’s an element of drama and theatre to the music on Lunar Love. The vocalists add to this drama and theatre. That’s no surprise.

Mop Mop were joined by a multitalented cast of guest artists. They add an exotic array of instruments to Lunar Love. From the myriad of percussion, to the  vibes, marimba, glockenspiel balafo, steel drums and kalimba. This potpourri of disparate and eclectic instruments play their part in Lunar Love, which is  without doubt the most accomplished and cohesive album of Mop Mop’s five album.

MOP MOP-LUNAR LOVE

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