Paperhouse: On Black Marble

My favorite new album at WRCT has been coldwave band Black Marble’s A Different Arrangement. Like much of Black Marble’s other source material, the album’s vocals are reminiscent of a low-key Ian Curtis, further developing the sound of their earlier Weight Against the Door EP. Here, the typically subdued tension between the angular synthesizers and human melancholia is at its zenith.

A Different Arrangement surveys a wide variety of sounds, from the radiant, bouncing ebullience of “A Great Design” to the haunted-playground bop of “Limitations,” juxtaposing sampled rim-drum tracks with layers of sentimental synth melodies. Warm basslines shapeshift across the album’s runtime and vintage synthesizer arrangements are airy and, at times, so distinctly sculpted they seem otherworldly.

“A certain handmade feeling is what we’re after,” Stewart explained in an interview with Hardly Art, the record label. “The music doesn’t have to be complex, but it’s more important to carry some residue of the process, especially when working with what [can sometimes] be construed as cold-sounding electronics. It’s humanizing.”

Black Marble’s latest album certainly embodies an analog quality that brings life to otherwise unfeeling electronic music. The textural complexities to which Stewart refers can only be fully appreciated after multiple listens, allowing the soundscapes to sink in further, quietly addictive.

If Weight Against the Door constituted a long, cold night, then A Different Arrangement heralds the moment when the radiator finally sputters to life, flooding the room with heat as the sun rises over a horizon of Brutalist tower blocks. The homemade soundtrack to a still, uncertain dawn, A Different Arrangement is a striking evolution in Black Marble’s sound.

(Originally published in The Tartan)