on 14 June 2013
This album, Stern's second and featuring the Primal Energy drumming of Zach Hill, was my first encounter with Stern's music. The effect on first spin was a bit like brain surgery - you wondered if it was necessary, and the discomfort experienced suggested that a removable lesion might best be left in place. Opener 'Prime' is a musical call-to-arms. Come to her banner or prepare to do battle against her musical vision. I didn't have the strength for either. I put the CD back on the shelf for a year.
I couldn't get her out of my thoughts. I felt as though I'd been bested somehow. I'd caught a glimpse of a new musical language, wholly sui generis, which I'd failed to grasp and in my failure, had done her a dis-service.
A year went by. I tried the album again. And lo, it all began to make sense. It was as if just one listen a year previously had begun a subtle process that culminated in my brain being re-wired. I got it. I hadn't been bludgeoned into submission; I hadn't succumed to 'critical hype'. I'd simply become converted to a new way of experiencing melody, rhythm and emotion. Stern has the ability to make you want to tell everyone about her, even whilst you know and hope that many just won't get her. She's a rare vision and all the more welcome for appearing bathed in veiled radiance.
Marnie Stern, may you rock long and prosper.
on 29 January 2011
Phew! This is a tough one. I first heard this in a record shop playing at rather low volume. To my ears it sounded like AC/DC being fronted by a group of very young children. Intrigued, I bought a vinyl copy.
Having listened to it all at decent volume I have completely changed my mind. Very left field jazz influenced. Stern's guitar playing is done in a finger picking style which although very impressive does get a bit wearing after a while as does her much overdubbed child-like voice.
The LP comes complete with the CD booklet with full lyrics which don't make a whole lot of sense - to be brutally honest I have simply no idea what she is on about and this I find annoying on many levels. Eventually I put the lyric book to one side, and hoped I could just enjoy the music. Hummm...
This is not somethign to listen to if you are looking for catchy melodies or sing-a-long choruses. It is hard work, but I think with repeated listenings it might begin to appeal. Also included is a code to make one complete FOC download of the entire album.
on 24 September 2012
"I cannot be all these things to you/It's true" she sings, that oddly childlike voice straining to be heard over the electric crackle of 'Transformer'. You'd almost say she makes it sound easy as she finds gaps in the noise in which to shout "The future is yours, so fill this part in", but nothing sounds easy on a Marnie Stern record. These twelve tracks are science experiments, attempts to understand the rush of new guitar knowledge that Stern discovered on her debut album. As such, there are fewer ecstatic revelations here, but listen to the way that obtuse guitar fragments joyously fail to cohere on 'Shea Stadium' or layer into something both dense and brittle in `Clone Cycle' and tell me what you hear. Are these vain displays of virtuosity or acts of self-creation in sound? Album closer 'The Devil Is In The Details' answers this question in a typically giddy fashion, with Stern offering herself up to the world and letting it see her change from moment to moment, guitar line to guitar line. "The devil is in the details/If you are ready" she sings, and she's right. How can Marnie Stern be everything to you? She doesn't seem sure, but she's ready to try if you're willing to keep up. Soon Stern will be invincible, a chimerical machine made out of layered vocals and art rock histrionics, but right now it's thrilling to hear her struggle to master the strange energies she's unleashed.