Philosophical synth pop...

Black Marble is a class act. Now four albums deep with ‘Fast Idol’, he continues to amalgamate his sound whilst progressing through different bodies of work - a sound that seeks to channel the future while simultaneously imprinting residue of the past.

Black Marble, aka Chris Stewart, may now be based in LA, but he’s imbued with the spirit of NYC’s synth pop scene of the early 2000s. His electronic ethos is galvanised with a punk-like DIY quality, which was most present throughout his early albums including 2012’s ‘A Different Arrangement’. His latest work feels both nostalgic and futuristic; reverberating coldwave, 80s-esque tones while lyrically channelling a rising tide of uncertainty, the buzzword which seems to plague our impending futures.

“I want my music to stick with you after I leave, even though you might not feel like you’re any closer to knowing it,” says Stewart in the album’s accompanying press release, and it’s this ambiguity which makes ‘Fast Idol’ mysteriously endearing. Writing and playing every instrument himself, the album lends itself to Stewart’s intuitive songwriting process. Church bells evoke gothic undertones in opener ‘Somewhere’ before a sharp drum loop elbows itself into centre stage, injecting danceable energy into the track, matched by its equally joyous music video.

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‘Bodies’ and ‘Royal Walls’ continue the upbeat vibes before ‘Try’ transcends into the darker hours of night with ominous beats and introspective lyrics: “I want to stay behind / But I can change my mind / I want to try.” ‘The Garden’ marks the most most sonically expansive point of the album with layer upon layer of vocals, synth and percussion inducing hypnotic auras. ‘Streetlight’ offers an entertaining meditation on the intelligence and emotions of humble lampposts before ‘Ceiling’, one of the albums pre-released tracks which came out in August, outlays the beauty of the unsaid: “Take these things / In silence, all for the words / We leave behind.”

‘Fast Idol’ sets out what it aims to do. It’s one of those albums that leaves you mulling over the lyrics, itching to find some kind of meaning but feeling ever more distant from finding it with every attempt. But whether or not you find the answer you’re looking for, you can’t help but revel in the soundscapes which paint the album’s tracklist with depth and varying textures. This is philosophical synth pop – that you can still dance to.

7/10

Words: Jamie Wilde

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