Benjamin Cartel


by Randy Radic, Huffington Post

Just-dropped, Flickering Light is the second full-length album from Benjamin Cartel, the Cartel portion of the renowned duo Kaiser Cartel. Co-produced by Cartel and Mike Cohen, the new album features Benjamin Cartel on vocals, guitar and drums; Mike Cohen on guitar; and Kieren Mulvaney on bass.

Cartel’s sound merges a panorama of stylistic influences, including rock, psych folk, dream rock and even a bit of prog rock weaving through some of the tunes. It’s a prismatic sound with shimmering patience and musical wisdom, as if an imperturbable ambiance decided to enfold you.

Flickering Light encompasses ten tracks. “Starlight” provides a dreamy tantalizing tint of sonic colors riding a psych-pop melody. Cartel’s voice is smooth as cream, drifting in sparkling waves, like clouds floating by. “Coast Town” blends alt rock with psychedelic country rock flavors into an emerging wash of sound that’s simultaneously quixotic and a little dangerous.

“The Jungle Eats Everything” exudes a Beatles-esque sensibility on a psych rock melody. A lustrous, wistful guitar gives the tune a potent opalescent sonority. “Save That Number” delivers a bluesy alt rock melody reminiscent of the Kinks, only with jangly Byrds-like guitars and a sensuous bassline. “Summerflame” features wonderful jangly guitars and a cool stylish SoCal soft rock melody. Cartel’s voice is soft and warm and tender. The jangly guitar solo is yummy.

“Sweet Ride” exudes psychedelic folk rock aromas ensconced in tropical fragrant tones. “Tica” provides a pop-flavored folk melody, gentle gleaming colors and Cartel’s delicately understated vocals. It’s a beautiful love song. “Down Now” presents kaleidoscopic jangling guitars riding beneath Cartel’ rasping but sublime vocals, like creamy-smooth peanut butter with bits of chocolate added for crunchy sweetness.

The music video for “Down Now,” directed and produced by Cartel and Matt Clements, is shot in washed out colors, as if with a vintage 8mm movie camera. The musicians arrive outside a building, unpack their instruments and carry them up flights of stairs to the roof, where they play “Down Now.” When the camera pulls back, the density of rooftops is overwhelming; just as the optics are established, the camera zooms to close-ups, providing a feeling of vertiginous dislocation.

“I’m Not The Man You Think I Am” is redolent of the Beatles in tone and inflection. The glistening jangly guitar injects the tune with psychedelic blushes that ramp up the song’s structural flow. The title track rides a pulsing, persistent rock melody. A dirty screaming guitar imbues the tune with a compact energy that’s contagious and effective. The freight train rhythm puffs with glossy, radiant dynamics.

Flickering Light is marvelous. The melodic sheens glow with alluring harmonics, the rhythmic pulses provide magnetic energy and Cartel’s polished voice provides exquisite refined tones. Flickering Light coruscates with lustrous beauty.