Black Marble could have survived in the early 80’s, among the racks of VHS, Laser Discs, and Cassette Tapes; Black Marble is a wonderful piece by piece look into the past, while keeping a progressive forward-thinking future in mind. It is most easily described by Ghostly International, a record company that houses Black Marble, “Black Marble formed in 2012 as an artistic extension of Chris Stewart’s collection of songs and ideas.” Not only does Black Marble become both a minimalistic sense of gentleness, but it also becomes a contrasting, deeply-layered adventure of dashing percussion, grinding guitars, and buzzing amplifiers that carry Stewart’s voice into what feels like another generation.
The latest project, It’s Immaterial has a lightweight, laid-back, but never careless sense of feeling behind it. From the very beginning, it is apparent that Chris Stewart has an incredible amount of technicality behind his work and shines through. From the “flurry of ideas floating around him”, to the singular style of production, Stewart breaks through the mold of lo-fi, a term that seems almost oversaturated at this point, but becomes a stronger, more adaptable breed of animal. The tracks are mostly straight-forward; they do not make sudden changes or create loops for the listener, instead Stewart uses loops of percussion, synthesizers, and guitar to create a steady wave for the listener to happily follow along. From his beginning tracks where cheerful rock music can be echoed throughout, to the later songs where the more subtle tracks where Stewart is so incredibly soft-spoken that he is almost inaudible, Black Marble is truly a force of beauty that embodies sunshine on a rainy day.
His opening track, “Interdiction” is comprised of all synthetic sounds and samples with arpeggiator chords, creating this waving motion of patterns that coexist within themselves. It is almost horrific in motions and is fantastically unparalleled when compared to the rest of It’s Immaterial. The first track and the rest of the record are polar opposites and the sound is soon abandoned to then become the standard sound that Black Marble so wonderfully produces. The following track, “Iron Lung” is rather faint and while it contains a large amount of sound, it is actually quite gentle and leaves room for the guitars and percussion to take the spotlight while the ambient bells and background noise lay the backing of the track. Stewart does an outstanding job of mixing and mastering all the sounds together to create a well-rounded exhibition of noise.
Even much later into the near forty-minute performance, Black Marble still manages to create a memorable style and way of progression within his tracks. The track, “Self Guided Tours” is one that sticks out as it uses more electronic percussion than most of the other previous tracks and each instrument feels like a major piece of one giant puzzle. From the synths to the guitar, back down to the percussion and the chimes, every segment is impactful and eye-catching. While none of the instruments over-power each other, or create a distance, they actually bring each other together and are incredibly harmonious. The true amount of beauty that follows Black Marble’s sound is awe-inspiring, there is not a single track that feels like a filler or something out of place. Even as Black Marble reaches the final moments of It’s Immaterial, Black Marble winds down and creates the perfect closer to an already near-perfect journey.
“Collene” feels like a step in the time machine for one last ride, the last side of the vinyl, and the last play on cassette Side B; a blissful ending to a joyous journey. Every fantastic album needs a closer that makes the journey want to be repeated over and over again and with “Collene”, Black Marble makes sure that no stone is left unturned in a last effort to bring the final act of lo-fi loveliness together. Stewart’s masterpiece is a few steps in, with multiple releases, but it is It’s Immaterial that truly creates a monument in stone or in the marble slab in this case, forever encasing a past look within a future idea. The wave of the 80’s may have ended, but to Stewart and Black Marble, the past looks incredibly bright.