Black Marble is yet another band that doesn’t fit into a neat genre.
Buuut….. here are three fake genres names that sort of describe what is going on musically!
- Black Marble’s music is “Coldwave” It is the sort of chilly, soft electronic music that you should play on a rainy mountain drive.
2. Black Marble’s music is “Urban Pastoral”. It may feel like home, but there’s a whole lot of concrete and artificial light around.
3. Black Marble’s music is “Sleep-Soundy“. It comes to you from underwater and fills the space around your head. Like a dream, it is the mood that
sticks with you, not the specifics.
Put simply, Black Marble is up of a pair of friends that made one record and one EP of ethereal, dark, melodic electronic music in 2012, and seemed since then to have called it quits. They never reached more than a few devoted fans (myself included), and they seemed inert for the past few years, but they just announced they are working on a new record for 2016, so get on this hype train, because it’s rolling out!!!
(Update: Black Marble’s second album, “It’s Immaterial” is out now! I havent’ listened to it enough to give my thoughts yet, but if you like “A Different Arrangement”, then try it out!)
The band gets much of their inspiration from a lot of the moody synth bands of the 80s like Joy Division, OMD, and Soft Cell. Luckily, you don’t need to have heard of any of these bands to appreciate the songs from Black Marble, and there is enough authenticity and originality to avoid accusations that they are simply a sum of their influences.
Black Marble’s music has a niche sound. As you begin to listen, think of Black Marble’s songs like Haikus. As in Haikus, there are rules. The vocals are always going to be low and barely distinguishable, the sound will all be low fidelity, the tempo will stay right in the median. Glasslike clinks, dark keyboard melodies, and throbbing bass lines are ok. Echoes are encouraged. Looping vocals, clear words, discernible instruments, and long-held notes are all off limits. These rules sound restrictive, but, just as Haikus give poets the tools to express their creativity, they set an amazing stage for this band to explore and experiment within a consistent framework.
The fact that the band bends genres and limits itself makes it interesting, but not necessarily worthwhile. Luckily, Black Marble showcase the full potential of their unique textures through their expert song craft. There are strong pop music sensibilities and clear melodies on every track that make these songs truly memorable. This is a band that maximizes the the power of finding a distinct sound and exploring its limits, and these constant explorations stop the record from feeling blurry or boring as it continually iterates on its themes and elements.
I absolutely love Black Marble’s vocals. Primary vocalist Chris Stewart’s voice makes you to feel mopey, but it’s a beautiful mopey. It feels deserved. He drones and sighs at the bass level of these tracks, and never risks emotional abandon. This voice, though, doesn’t drag the music down as much as it plunges it further into the distant airlock where it reverberates and is beamed back to earth. It adds both energy and gravitas to the music, and even though I couldn’t tell you more than ten of the individual words he sings on the record., I can’t get his mumbling calls out of my head.
In fact, I haven’t been able to get Black Marble out of my head since I heard them. They are one of the few bands that I come back to over and over again almost unintentionally. Last year they placed #3 on my Spotify most listened chart, and I once listened to “A Great Design” 14 times in one day.How to Listen:
Begin with the band’s most popular track, “A Great Design”. It is simple and accessible, and serves as a wading pool for the band’s sound. You can get your feet wet, before diving in to more of their experimentation on other tracks.
You could really start with any other song on “A Different Arrangement”. There just really any duds. That said, I’ll describe a few songs specifically.
A Different Arrangement: This is the brightest song next to “A Great Design”. I’d love to hear a band like The National cover this one.
Cruel Summer: This album opener is a slow burn. It uses echoes and the recurring phrase “Draw the Window” to burrow into your mind.
UK: Contains some of my favorite vocals, and fun, shimmering keyboard exploration.
Last: One of the more sparse tracks. This one has a great guitar line and glows with ethereal beauty.
The Masterpiece: A Great Design
It is the most relaxing and subtly majestic song the band could have produced. It opens with a meandering keyboard line and quickly builds to a stately pulse. There is a string of bright keyboard climbs that carries the song as it settles into a groove that you can float along in. I listened to “A Great Design” three times in a row while driving through the Appalachian Mountains while it rained, and it fit the scene perfectly.