If a "Space Music"-era Miles Davis joined Meredith Monk to form an acid rock band, BEN.BEN. would be the approximate result.
The handful of tracks from the Tulsa group's new EP, "New Stone Works," are playfully cryptic, sparse and, at times, impenetrable. Some listeners will find the bizarre odyssey thrilling, and others might find it repellant.
BEN.BEN. is comprised of members from Sir Threadius Mongus, which, like its name, is an amalgam of various jazz influences. Annie Ellicott is lead vocalist for both bands, a waifish songbird with a pixie cut similar to Dolores O'Riordan from The Cranberries. Her vocal delivery is otherworldly and earned the singer a Legacy Tribute Award this year from the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame for continuing the tradition of jazz vocals.
In BEN.BEN., Ellicott ventures even further into the realm of nontraditional vocalization, sometimes verging on incantation.
"We write our music leaning toward virtuosity, so we try to find musicians that can accommodate that, and she is definitely one of them," said the band's guitarist, Jeff Davis. "We've done things with her that we wouldn't have been able to do with anyone else."
BEN.BEN. was born in 2003, but took its current form about a year ago. Its mission statement is rooted in something called "The Unwind," a concept hard to grasp even after lengthy conversations with Davis, hour-long research sessions on the group's MySpace page and the band's Amalgam Imgigma record label Web site.
Even cueing up BEN.BEN. tracks into a continual loop brings one no closer to unknotting the concept of "The Unwind," or even establishing a firm grip on what the music itself means.
Here is how Davis explained it:
"The basic premise is a story with a cast of characters featured throughout, spanning 2,000 years or so. Within that is something called 'The Unwind.' BEN.BEN. is looking at The Unwind 20 years after the event, a tribute to The Unwind from within the story."
The Unwind seems to be an act of surveying history through perceptual experience, rather than a series of dates and facts " yet the history exists in a kind of alternate reality.
The band's own press release doesn't help this or Davis' description: "BEN.BEN. has designed a third-eye"?crushing, cryptic, muscular and entheogenic rock and roll fantasy. Candy for your eyes and ears."
In case you're wondering, "entheogenic" refers to both a type of ambient, chill-out music as well as the practice of using psychedelic chemicals to enhance religious ceremonies.
The act's 9 p.m. Saturday show at Uptown United will feature extra performance elements, including elaborate visual art displays, which the BEN.BEN. members said will help explain The Unwind concept.
"We've done a few things in the past, but we are definitely looking forward to doing something more substantial, a work that dives into the full story," Davis said.
Those not intimidated by a sprawling and dense sonic concept wrapped in acid rock heavily influenced by free-form jazz should slice out some time Saturday to, um, Unwind. "Charles Martin