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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 27 January 2000
One of the strangest and most beguiling albums of the sixties, so ahead of its time that even now it feels like we're still trying to catchup. Etherial ambiant layers of noise fold along with the deep throated, other worldly voice of Nico. It is apparent that the infamous Welshman John Cale played a big part in this album, credited for the arrangements only, but his presecence is over whelming. The opening floats in as a short instrumental, which then expands into a wheezing, chiming piece of music, the perfect background for Nico. The tone is set for the rest of the record, songs which just happen, with an intriguing lack of drive to go anywhere other than into their own world of ambient gazing. Songs which sound like their titles, 'frozen warnings' and 'evening of light' are perfect examples of this musical onamatopeism. In fact the outro of the latter, and to the album proper (excluding added bonus tracks) is one of the most startling and beautiful pieces of ambient noise mongery I know, like whistling down a cave with a haunted voice, and it is a sound that subsequent bands have based their whole sound around (comapre with the Cocteau Twins' first album, and any number of Bahaus tracks). You will never hear anything like this anywhere else, except maybe in the subsequent Nico and John Cale meetings of minds and music, but not with as much denseness as here. This album takes a long time to love, if your brave enough to take the time and take it to heart. All efforts are well worth it.
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on 9 November 2006
This album is without doubt one of the most sublime and haunting albums i own (and i own a lot) Many people seem unable to cope with Nico's pure deep and richly mournful voice, but i have always found it utterly spellbinding. Cale's arrangements are so inspired,that the voice and music seem to exist together in perfect union, a magical alchemy that recalls forest, ruins, evening processions. Nico's lyrics are pure poetry, cryptic and allusive. An album definitely to be listened to by candlelight. If you have never heard this, or Nico's other masterpeice 'Desertshore' you are truly missing something.
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on 15 October 2007
This has been remastered and reissued, along with the equally brilliant "Desertshore", as a 2 CD set called "The Frozen Borderline". The remastering on the new release is superior to that here, and there are bonus tracks as well. So, it's definitely worth considering getting that version instead (especially if you don't already own "Desertshore").

For completists: the versions of "Roses in the Snow" and "Nibelungen" are different on this disc from the ones on the "The Frozen Borderline". "Nibelungen" is particularly different, as here it is a short a capella version and on "The Frozen Borderline" it is longer and has instrumental backing. The version here is gorgeous but it also available on the "Classic Years" compilation and at the end of the "Nico: Dance Music" CD by John Cale and Ice Nine.
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on 24 October 2012
(Before I start the review, others have mentioned, but it would be good to check out The Frozen Boarderline, which has all tracks included on this album, plus extras, as well as Nico's second masterpiece, Desertshore and extras from that also. For completists, this album is still necessary as the versions of Roses In The Snow and Nibelungan are different here than on Boarderline)

This is Nico's true debut album and while Chelsea Girl has a place in my collection, it is terribly ditzy in comparison to the deep, evocative trilogy of albums that would follow it. Each of these is thematically linked through Nico's trademark, thick, androgynous, germanic vocals and her beautiful harmonioum which when combined (even without Cale's instrumentation) calls on an ancient time and civilisation long lost in ruins. That is the feeling I get when I listen to The Marble Index, which is Nico's most acarne feeling album. In fact it is so arcane that it is almost out of time itself and still sounds as fresh and unique since it was first recorded.

Most of the songs use Nico's harmonium with extra flourishes of instrumentation by John Cale, to conjour all kinds of images into the reader. I always think of a deserted fairground when I hear Lawns of Dawns, a pleasent enough opener, though probably the weakest song on the album (Prelude notwithstanding) and when it comes to the final track, Evening Of Light, where the guitars, Cale's screeching viola and Nico's etheral vocals bring up visions of a desolate city lost in some fantastical battles. Much of Nico's songs have a dream-like quality and this is without a doubt Nico's most psychedelic album and probably one of the most effective in that category ever made.

Frozen Warnings and Julius Ceasar are two wonderful ballads, along with the added track, Roses in The Snow which should never have been left of the origional. I quite like the acapella version of Nibelungan, though the version of The Frozen Borderline is far superior. The soaring strings in No One Is There are beautiful and the song has a great vocal delivery from Nico that proves the lazy critics wrong in that she doesn't simply drone along with harmonium led dirges. Ari's Song, written for Nico's son is a pretty song and probably the only soft spot you get on the album, which is otherwise incredibly dark and eiree.

Of Nico's masterful trilogy, The Marble Index is Nico's most dream-like and avante-garde, though it is perhaps not accessible to a casual music listener, though for them I might suggest Desertshore, which is Nico's most acessible album with regards to the albums she had full control over. I cannot decide between these three albums which I prefer, but in terms of artistic quality and phsychedelic beauty, I would rate this as Nico's best in these areas.
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The life of Velvet Underground chanteuse/model Nico was a life of tragedy that fame couldn't soothe and drugs couldn't blot out. And beautiful "The Marble Index" is much like Nico herself was -- beautiful, vaguely gothic and laced with sadness and darkness.
The tinkly melody of "Prelude" leads up to the haunting chant of "Lawns of Dawns" and the string-led grandeur of "No One Is There." Things take a stumble with "Ari's Song," which is backed by painful whistling. But Nico got back on track with the majestic "Julius Caesar (Memento Hodie)," the frosty "Frozen Warnings," and the scintillating "Evening of Light." Two previously unreleased tracks finish it off: the melancholy "Roses in the Snow" and the a capella "Nibelungen."
Musically, Nico is best known for her work in the Velvet Underground. But after she left that band, she took on a different type of music -- not as controversial, smoother and darker, with a heavy and distinctly Germanic flavor. It could have easily been depressing, but instead it's moody and hypnotic.
Strings and harmonium form the core of this album, and it gives a vaguely medieval feel to the album -- imagine Nico playing inside a darkened cathedral. And her writing is almost as good, evocative and poetic. "Midnight winds are landing at the end of time/In the morning of my winter/When my eyes are still asleep..."
Nico's vocals are still unique to this day. Her vocals are heavily accented and sort of thick, and there isn't a lot of vocal variation either. But her voice sounds strangely rich and vibrant, especially when she sings the more heartfelt lines like "No one is there!" Her voice is especially striking in "Nibelungen," where the music is gone and she simply sings, with long pauses between verses.
The tragedies and sadness of Nico's life seep out of "The Marble Index," a gloriously dark and spellbinding collection of music. Wintry, polished, gothic, and a magnificent creation.
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on 29 September 2011
This is not just any album containing ten songs, this is something unique and very different from any mainstream kind of album. It has to be seen as a work of art. Also the fact that Nico was very fond of her German accent and did emphasise it rather than obscure it tells you something. Bizarre, unique and beautiful. Not for fans of mainstream easy listening and definitely too sophisticated for the average X Factor fan.
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This is one of the greatest albums of the Sixties- though it sounds out of time, a fractured plain of dreams and nightmares, medieval and futuristic. 'The Marble Index' is one of those wonderful albums that grow with each listen- it sounds like nothing else. But if you want analogies- think of albums that sound individual and unlike anything else: 'Metal Box', 'Suicide', 'Sulk', 'Get Up With It', 'Star Sailor'...
The late,esteemed music critic Lester Bangs raved over this album- which should be enough to make you want to buy it. Nico had moved on from being Lou's muse- there is nothing here that sounds like 'Femme Fatale' or 'Chelsea Girls'.
According to the recent so-so documentary 'Nico Icon' she had fallen under the influence of Jim Morrison- who had urged her to write songs (Anais to his Henry?). So, Nico wrote the songs here- though far from songs in the conventional sense- John Cale arranged this album- which fuses harmonium with minimal classical music and THAT VOICE.
You may not like this the first time you hear it- like Scott Walker's 'Tilt' or Michael Nyman's 'Zed with Two Noughts' it demands repeated listens. It may seem too out there- but persist- because you WILL come to love this album.
This is one of those night-time albums- much better than anything Lou did solo and the album to listen to before you play John Cale's 'Paris 1919'. This is an extreme album- think about those difficult Tricky albums or a more fractal Bjork or Siouxsie. This sounds like the soundtrack to 'Cabaret' filtered through Blake's 'Heaven & Hell'.
Hard to describe each track, a few do stand out: the sinister 'No One is There', the emotional 'Ari's Song', the spectral 'Evening of Light' and my personal favourite, 'Frozen Warnings'. There are also two extra tracks, 'Roses in the Snow' and 'Nibelungen'. The latter spells out part of Nico's oblique manifesto- the chaos of post-Nazi Germany, the death of her father- the Murnau sense of having no place called home. This album is as rootless as Nico seemed to be...
This is the best Nico album- though 'Chelsea Girl', 'Desertshore' & 'The End' are also worth getting. Nico is still an icon- imagine an avant garde Bardot...at times this feels like the soundtrack to JG Ballard's 'The Atrocity Exhibition': extremity magnified, the close-up burning through your senses.
'The Marble Index' is a masterpiece.
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on 11 November 2004
The other reviews here all give the impression that this is a very unapproachable album that will take time to grow on you. Maybe I'm weird, but I liked it on first hearing all those years ago, and still do. Don't approach it too intellectually, just enjoy the dreamlike atmosphere Nico and Cale create.
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on 20 August 2012
I love this album. Yes it's dark in places but Nico manages to pull you a little way into her world. There is something slighty mysterious and magical about this album. Give it a try, your ears are in for a treat.
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on 2 October 2004
If you're expecting 'Chelsea Girl' forget it.This is European Avant Garde minimalism at it's best. A wonderful LP. Nico was so much more adventurous than Lou Reed, but never got the credit she deserved. Wonderful recording. Buy it.
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