Album Review: At the Institute of Mentalphysics by Betty Benedeadly & Braden Guess

Here’s a fact that you may have overlooked but one that I most certainly did not; Brad Frye and his Desert Records label put out some of the coolest music in the underground desert rock scene. Whether it’s his outstanding Legends of the Desert series, Cortége, Book of Wyrms, or my favorite artist on the label, Betty Benedeadly, he’s always bringing us the music we want to hear. So, when the label announced the first full-length effort from Ms. Benedeadly, I was ecstatic and immediately pre-ordered this fine album.

About At the Institute of Mentalphysics

Coming out on February 17th, 2023, Institute of Mentalphysics is another perfect chapter in Betty’s solo career (she has also put out two incredible EPs). This time she also brings Braden Guess along, who applies a veritable plethora of talents to this record, including …

“Producer, writer, arranger; Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass, banjo, mandolin, dobro, synthesizers, conga, percussion, bones, crystals.”

Betty handles the duties of,

“Producer, writer, arranger; Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, jaw harp, wooden frog”

To write this album, the two decided to answer some important musical queries,

“What lies at the intersection of psychedelia and folk music? How can the land speak through us? These are some of the questions that Betty Benedeadly & Braden Guess sought to answer on their month-long journey into the Joshua Tree desert. Their reply took the form of a 7-song instrumental LP that invites the listener into old-time, foot-stompin’ pickin’ circles, as well as that wide-open, ambient country air, all while maintaining their signature cinematic sound.”

The Songs

The album starts with a shit-kickin’, chicken-pickin’ good time romp that goes by the name “Dust Storm Dance.” The steady bass drum beat just instills movement, and as I listened, my mind’s eye conjured up a dusty saloon porch filled with crusty miners sipping a few suds and a blazing fire providing light for the dancing of the “ladies of the evening” who often worked those old saloons back in the late 1800s.

The guitar playing fits that scene to a tee, with Betty and Braden laying down intricate yet simple-sounding lines that will get you grooving along with them. The hand claps are the perfect touch, adding an even stronger rhythmic base to the music. I absolutely love this song!

Coming in as the second song, we find “Sand in My Boot,” which brings the energy down but is no less excellent than its predecessor.

This one utilizes some beautiful lap steel playing by Ron Therrio, adding a western vibe that may bring to mind old western films featuring John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. The guitars aren’t short on that vibe either, supplying a similar feel to her previous EPS.

Much like the first track, my mind created a short mental film based on what I was hearing. I saw a lone cowboy riding across the range, head tipped forward, hat shadowing his dusky face, camouflaging a sadness he didn’t want anyone else to know about. There’s a bottle of whiskey in his hand, which he holds down by his side, further displaying an air of unhappiness, and his horse slowly trots across the range as he occasionally brings the bottle to his lips, trying to kill the pain of a love lost to the cruelty of others; revenge slowly burning in the back of his mind.

Another song that stuck out is “Mojave Mystic.” The very beginning reminded me of the American Horror Story theme a bit, which surprised me, but also pulled me in. This is another song whose tempo is on the slower side and has the cinematic feel that Betty is a master of; it’s a large part of why I enjoy her songs the way I do. As with all of her music, the execution and overall vibe are incredible. I was a little bummed that my mind didn’t run away with itself like it did with the others, but I love everything about it, nonetheless.

Other standout tracks include “Primordial Rhythms” and “Lullaby to the Stars.”

Final Thoughts

Betty and Braden have recorded an album that oozes desert vibes and whose psychedelic folk meets western cinematic scores are unparalleled in its vision. The instrumentation is as well performed as it is well written, and all the extra bits and pieces only add more depth to their songs. I cannot recommend this one highly enough for you to understand how superb The Institute of Mentalphysics is; you’ll have to hear and experience it for yourselves to fully grasp what I’m saying. So, head over to their Bandcamp profile and listen to the two available tracks!! Enjoy!!!

Support Betty Benedeadly by checking out her Bandcamp or finding her on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Patreon, YouTube).

This review was written by Tom Hanno, who has been writing reviews for the last 7 years but has been sharing his love of music for the majority of his life. Originally starting out at the now defunct Chimera Magazine, he is currently contributing to Doomed and Stoned, The Sleeping Shaman, The Doom Charts, Tom’s Reviews, and The Third Eye. Read more of Tom’s reviews by checking out his Linktree.

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