If you haven’t heard Ben Montero’s music yet, there is a distinct possibility you will have seen his illustrations. Whether on his hugely successful Facebook page Montero’s Sketchbook, or gracing the covers of albums from the likes of Mac Demarco, Pond, and Kurt Vile: if you’ve seen them, his distinct style is not something you tend to forget. However, this signature artistic style is not forcibly bound to the medium of paper & ink, and he positively drenches his musical endeavours with his own brand of universally relatable uniquity.
Performer is the culmination of many years of musical development and refinement and serves as the debut release from the Athens-based, Australian artist Ben Montero. Under the banner of Montero, Ben brings together members of renowned alternative-psych group Acid Baby Jesus, along with a handful of other Athens based musicians, to form what has become a strikingly solid musical unit.
The album gets off to a strong start with opener ‘Montero Airlines‘, but it’s near the middle of the album that Montero really hit their stride: the titular track marking the start of a superb mid-album procession of hook-laden, anthemic soft rock. Tracks like the emphatic ‘Vibrations‘ & ‘Tokin’ the Night Away‘ reward those who made it past the mid-point of the record, and ushers in the closing portion.
Contrasting with the invariable style of the majority of the album comes the track ‘Quantify‘. Feeling like somewhat of a stylistic left-turn, it also serves as a testament to the sonic versatility of the band. Sounding like a melancholic nod to the New Wave bands from the mid-’80s, the track comes at just the right point on the record to re-capture the listener’s attention before the transition into the final third.
Throughout the album, Ben Montero uses the music as a vehicle to veraciously dissect his personal experiences in a way that serves not just as therapy for himself, but to the tens of thousands of listeners: all of whom can find some comfort in this outwardly-relatable sonic artistry. A common thread of the art that Montero makes, whether it be his illustrations or his music, is how effortlessly relatable it is to anyone and everyone.
Jay Watson of Tame Impala & Pond fame co-produced the album and it’s hard not to hear his influence weaved into every track here. Stylistically it sounds very much like the hypothetical love child of early Impala and Demarco, except requiring very little analysis and mental participation on behalf of the listener. This brings forth the one major flaw with the album: how incredibly safe it is. You’ll find no boundary pushing or compositional risk-taking on it: the actuality of which becomes even more baffling when you consider the incredible talent that collaborated to produce Performer.
While nothing revolutionary or genre-defining, the album should still be applauded for its incredible sense of coherence, especially when considering the fact that it’s a debut release. It would be a fatal mistake to brush Montero aside based on the strength of this release alone: the company he keeps must also be considered, and spending so much time around these incredible musicians and songwriters will only make Ben and the rest of Montero develop exponentially.
Performer is released on 2nd February through Chapter Music.