Black Marble: Bigger Than Life (Sacred Bones) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, August 10th, 2020  

Black Marble

Bigger Than Life

Sacred Bones

Oct 28, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The front cover of Black Marble's new record, Bigger Than Life, depicts a tight close-up of a man in red embracing a man in yellow from behind. It's an evocative image, one that speaks to a love that's potentially either platonic or more intimate, without dismissing either option. Whether they're on a motorcycle, or just comfortably leaning into one another, it elicits a sense of simple warmth; a warmth that reflects Chris Stewart's work as Black Marble beautifully.

On his third studio record, Stewart is once more working strictly with analog gear. Bigger Than Life is '80s nostalgia writ large; a goofy grin masking a quiet tear. For music with such a fuzzy mix and a pervading air of melancholy remembrance, the whole album shimmers with a hopeful energy that keeps Bigger than Life feeling suitably large, albeit perhaps not as large as life. The stinger is that Stewart's melancholy isn't born of nostalgia, but of uncertainty for the future. 

Part of that evocative blend comes down to Stewart's vocal flying higher in the mix. That gives his small narratives space to breathe without removing their characteristic fuzz, as on lead single "One Eye Open." Stewart embodies a high wire artist, grown increasingly restless with his precarious position above the crowds. Singing "Climb up on the high rope/Another  night" atop a chugging synthline, it feels like the net floor could give way at any moment.

It's fitting that Stewart says he was inspired in his writing process by his ride to his downtown Los Angeles studio on the Echo Park bus. There's something documentarian in his compilation of barely-holding-it-together fringe characters, be it the ego death of the ex-radio host on "Feels" or the insular interiorism of the title track. Some of these tales still get occluded by Stewart's love of processing and the repetition of his roster of bouncy synths, but when it works, it makes for a timeless snapshot of lonely inner city life. (www.blackmarble.bandcamp.com)

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