Title: A Different Arrangement
Artist: Black Marble
Release date: Out Now
RRP: $11.99 / £9.02
Composed by: Black Marble
Music and Vocals by: Black Marble
Tags: Post goth, minimal synth, post punk, synth pop, new wave, minimal wave
Black Marble opens a time corridor to the early 1980s, combining a number of genres from that period into a unique and intriguing sound.
Turning an ear back to the minimalistic electronic music of the 1980s one assumes that sound was by design. Well, yes, artists like Gary Numan and Soft Cell aimed for that sound but not because they wanted to. They had to. Recording multiple tracks back then just wasn’t the option it is today. Bands had to port over layers of sounds by mixing tape track onto tape track. The less complicated the sound the better was the result. While Heaven 17 and Human League managed somehow to add warmth to their sound it was an uphill battle to do so.
Looking at bands who started in the late 70s and early 80s that still record today a trend is clear. The sound gets more complex with the years. The eerie and sparse sound of Front Line Assembly grew into epic, lush soundscapes. Skinny Puppy’s muddy tape loops and samples recorded in a basement grew into guitar laden, percussion heavy assaults on the eardrums.
Black Marble, who are a contemporary band, chose to put aside recent advances in favor of the sound they grew up with, the minimal wave that blasted from their cassette decks. Yet Black Marble doesn’t cherry pick any particular sound of any particular band but rather melts them all down into something from an alternate 1983.
For instance, Cruel Summer opens the album with the percolating bass synth we attribute to early Electronic Body Music bands like Front 242. The vocals are buried in the mix and have a distinct new romantic flare. A drum machine and bell like melodies fill out the sound for a strong single.
The song that follows, MSQ No Extra, spotlights the broad strokes Black Marble paints with. The drum beat is far more in the direction of post punk. The introduction of electric bass guitar lends even more to a sound reminiscent of Joy Division. It is melancholy yet spiritually uplifting at the same time, the sort of song you might expect from a Michael Mann directed film.
The title track swings back to the sound of the opener, though a little more pop oriented. Not once is there a feeling of whiplash. Enough familiar instrumentation ties the album together. Fat Moog synth tones and more analogue methods of recording blends it all evenly. A reliance on reverb helps to smooth out the transitions for a well crafted and complete album.
Limitations lends itself further into the realm of synth pop and could easily be the love theme from some lost John Hughes film. UK, Static, and Pretender are further offerings of post punk with peppering of keyboards. Safe Minds, Unrelated, and A Great Design present more of a synth pop or minimal wave sort of sound.
Overall A Different Arrangement is a strong recommendation for anyone who grew up listening to Berlin or the Electric Light Orchestra. Then perhaps you are of the younger generation with an interest in 1980s music and culture that isn’t ironic. Black Marble succeeds in condensing that very sound into a potent mixture just waiting to be injected into your earholes.