It’s almost like Salvaging the Present is a journal of De Benedictis’s travels, a collection of discarded sounds and ideas brought together to paint outlines of emotional states, leaving silences that encourage conscious listener participation, eventually filling with vocal samples, strings, or the idiosyncratic beeps and whirs of IDM.
Eleven years after releasing Salvaging the Past on Spotted Peccary Records, Dean De Benedictis (a.k.a Surface 10) returned to the label to release Salvaging the Present, a spiritual successor and “sequel of sorts” (in De Benedictis’ words) to the record in October.
Salvaging the Present is full of De Benetictis’s trademark sounds: woodwinds, minimal percussion, and piano. He manages the meeting of acoustic and electronic with a deft touch, building tapestries that are minimal, sophisticated, vivid, and emotional. Taking sounds from seemingly disparate sources, it seems that salvage is a good metaphor for the record. It’s almost like Salvaging the Present is a journal of De Benedictis’s travels, a collection of discarded sounds and ideas brought together to paint outlines of emotional states, leaving silences that encourage conscious listener participation, eventually filling with vocal samples, strings, or the idiosyncratic beeps and whirs of IDM.
But Salvaging the Present is just as vibrant when taken with a meditative absence—it tickles something in the brain that encourages creative thinking. I think it’s something about the spaces between the sounds that triggers the creative mind.
That isn’t to say that much of Salvaging the Present is silence; there’s very little silence in the record. It’s that, in keeping with the “ambient” label, the wide spectra of sound that flow through the tracks fall away, becoming their own kind of silence that elevates the carefully chosen leading instruments in each piece.
The hour-long, 9-track album fluctuates energetically, moving from ultra-minimalist stretches to active constructions. Of the tunes, my favorite is the opener, “To the Ends of Elation.” It’s clever use of spliced recordings of guitars and pianos played forward and backwards, combined with the ethereal vocal melodies, creates a beautiful tune that has more of a hook than ambient tracks tend to have, without having it become cumbersome. It’s like the head melody in a piece of jazz—he returns to it to reset the piece before jumping off on another musical tangent. The result is a sophisticated piece of music that shifts between states—from ambient guitar to IDM-accompanied piano and back—seamlessly, even if the different periods within the piece feel so different from each other.
Salvaging the Present is a beautiful record, perfect for the surprisingly rainy winter we’re facing in the San Francisco Bay Area. But it’s equally at home when the sun finally peeks out from behind the clouds.
Salvaging The Present is available on Spotted Peccary Music.