Occasionally, artists seek to shatter their audience’s perception of who they are and the type of music they make. This is, perhaps, what Marbled wishes to do with his Electric Sleep EP, which sees him temporarily hanging up his acoustic guitar and delving into the realm of electronica. But if our perception of Marbled is to be shattered, then the EP’s opening track does so in the gentlest manner possible – ‘Olympian Ambition’ clearly demonstrates that this is not an EP of brain-pounding, four-to-the-floor electro, rather a peaceful, ambient soundscape – Marbled’s vocals glide over unhurried, slightly off-kilter beats and shimmering piano effects. ‘Telescope’, on the other hand, feels a touch more menacing, featuring deep, rumbling bass notes and a jagged, robotic synth riff in its chorus – but the darker feel is contrasted with sparkling chimes and ethereal-sounding vocals.
The gently-strummed chords that underpin ‘Brave New World’s intro and chorus show that Marbled hasn’t entirely abandoned his guitar for this EP, but the majority of the track is still electronically based, from the swelling strings in the background to the drum machine beats that drive the song forward – towards its climax, the track sounds like Sigur Rós for a brief, beautiful moment. Finally, ‘Notre Damn’ is another successful re-appropriation of an Alpha Waves tune, taking the plaintive, acoustic original and turning it into something much more expansive and atmospheric. Echoing bell-rings bring to mind the cavernous interior of the (almost) titular cathedral, while the accompanying electronics conjure up a lonely, starry night.
Marbled – ‘Notre Damn’
The only minor problem I have with the EP is that, with the exception of ‘Notre Damn’, Marbled’s vocals seem to blend in to the accompanying soundtrack a little too much at times. In truth, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, highlighting as it does the potential to use the voice as another instrument. But at the same time, it feels like the sense of narrative (that so often seems to drive his work) is diminished somewhat. Overall though, the Electric Sleep EP is a worthwhile departure for Marbled – not only does it indicate an unwillingness to be pigeonholed, it’s also a finely polished piece of work.
More familiar, but no less ambitious, is Marbled’s most recent release, the Pocket Search EP – which blends four individual songs into one seamless track. The EP starts out with ‘Seven Days’, which contrasts its upbeat guitars with world-weary lyrics and a feel of chasing an impossible goal (“Seven days a week/running miles, running miles”). The EP follow this with a subtle change to a minor key on ‘Stars Tonight’, a song which, by contrast, seems to long for an escape (“Where do you go when your world stops spinning?/Anywhere to leave them all behind”). The minor key tones are maintained on ‘Level Horizons’, during which, at times, the guitar drops out entirely leaving Marbled’s voice exposed – appropriately while he’s singing the lyrics “I can’t hide on level horizons.” It’s a clever and confident little touch. The sequence ends with the melancholy but beautiful ‘Birds And Bee’ – could the repeated refrain of “A white swan on an ink-black lake” be referring to someone who’s a ray of hope in a miserable world? Maybe that’s just me projecting.
Overall, the Pocket Search EP executes its concept brilliantly and is probably Marbled’s most accomplished piece of work to date. I think it’s one of those things where you really have to listen yourself to get the full effect, but luckily Marbled has uploaded it to his Soundcloud profile, so I’ve posted it below:
Marbled – Pocket Search EP