Review: Betty Benedeadly & Braden Guess ‘At The Institute Of Mentalphysics’

Having reviewed and enjoyed Betty Benedeadly‘s two EPs, 2021s From The Mesa and 2022s The Adventures Of Mabel & Carter, it was somewhat inevitable then that I would cover debut full-length At The Institute Of Mentalphysics. The album sees Benedeadly teaming up with Sheverb bandmate Braden Guess; also of Lasso who are described on Instagram as an experimental country krautrock band – sounds intriguing, I must investigate.

Betty Benedeadly & Braden Guess 'At The Institute Of Mentalphysics'

The title is actually the name of the location where it was recorded, a retreat centre based in Joshua Tree, on the album Benedeadly plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar, jaw harp and wooden frog while Guess contributes electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass, banjo, mandolin, dobro, synthesizers, conga, percussion, bones and crystals.

Dust Storm Dance is an uplifting country-folk piece and one can imagine friends and family getting together after dinner celebrating being together and enjoying life. Alcoholic beverages would be drunk, instruments would be jammed and everyone up and dancing. A jamboree if you like, reminding one of the simpler less stressful times of yesteryear and a fun arresting way to start the album. Sand In My Boot by contrast is slow and sombre, slinky blues with a psychedelic tinge. If I was to make comparisons then the likes of Tito & Tarantula could be drawn, especially their contributions to the From Dusk Till Dawn soundtrack.

Fading Painted Sky is a classy Morricone themed number that is atmospheric and will please anyone who is a fan of Sergio Leone’s amazing Spaghetti Western trilogy. There is also a drone like element too that has a similar vibe to Lathe’s Tongue Of Silver as well as Earth’s Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method, albums that also borrow from the aforementioned Morricone with equally spectacular results. For those not from the United States, Mojave refers to both the desert, and in turn, the native Mojave people for which it is named, thus Mojave Mystic feels like a tribute to both. It’s a rather touching track with a slight Spanish flamenco flair and is, in truth, quite catchy.

I don’t think at this stage Benedeadly could produce anything that would disappoint me, and thanks go to Guess for his invaluable contributions…

Lullaby To The Stars reminds me of scenes from David Lynch’s Straight Story when Alvin looks up at the night sky during his travels to see his estranged brother Lyle. There is a definite reflective and introspective quality to the track and seeing as I too love to gaze at the sky on a clear night, this number especially hits home for me. Primordial Rhythms has a jagged post-punk edge about it and, in my opinion, is certainly the toughest sounding track on the album. Its jagged country inflected sound recalls the darker bands of The Paisley Underground movement such as True West and Thin White Rope. A personal favourite for sure.

Invocation Of The Ancient Desert is the longest album track at well over six minutes and features audio from Institute Of Mentalphysics founder Ding Le Mei (born Edwin J Dingle). According to Wikipedia, Mentalphysics is a ‘universalist spiritual development’ technique based on a vegetarian diet, pranayama and the development of extrasensory perception. The music the duo produce here, therefore, is more like a conduit for Ding Le Mei‘s beliefs in a similar way to a band like OM who incorporate Byzantine and Tibetan structures in their music. A meditative and spiritually rewarding conclusion to the album.

I don’t think at this stage Benedeadly could produce anything that would disappoint me, and thanks go to Guess for his invaluable contributions too. The album builds on the preceding two EPs resulting in yet another rewarding listening experience.

Label: Desert Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills