Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Marlone - To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie


To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie
Kranky Records.

SCQ Rating: 76%

What is truly noir is also timeless. Regardless of whatever noise-pop, lo-fi, surf-rock preoccupation happens to be plaguing the trendsetters at present, the always-hyphenated noir (be it future-noir, tech-noir, pop-noir, you follow…) perseveres because, frankly, gloom is eternally contemporary. Undated and constantly reshaped, the pop-noir that infected generations via Fiction or Factory records has evolved and interspersed itself throughout the Kranky catalog… burrowing itself in peaceful aural environments or confronting listeners at will. Like a microcosm of Kranky’s multifaceted sound, To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie occupy both sides of the spectrum – the nestled ambience, the jagged sound-manipulation – on Marlone, while unveiling a few surprises that’ll shock just about anyone.

If you’re still a little rusty on the whole noir style, here’s some framework: think Broadcast (only more brooding), Ladytron (only less electronic), and a pinch of Portishead (only more dissonant), and you’re ready to hear To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie. Or stretch the stylish mayhem of the Raveonettes’ rock into the paranoid after-hours, where sleep-deprived thoughts become hallucinations and wraithlike effects build into breathtaking songs. The Minneapolis by-way-of Virginia duo Jehna Wilhelm and Mark McGee seem all too familiar with this mental no-man’s land, dedicating their second full-length for Kranky to gothic-tinged lullabys and pretty nightmares. Most immediate of the bunch is ‘The Needle’, which thrives off an opening riff so effect-laden, it’s nearly impossible to detect whether it’s a synth or guitar, before falling into the bottomless lurking of Winhelm’s sedated coos and McGee’s terrifying sound-clashes. The track ends nowhere near where it began and that’s the closest hint to a No Exit sign you’ll find here. As proven by ‘You’ve Gone Too Far’, To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie aren’t aiming to craft an urban purgatory… they’re skirting an edge, playing catch on the fringe of the unknown. As that opening track’s languid melody gathers steam and falls into time with an ominous crosswind of tribal percussion, this vibe of “the unknown” is entirely believable. In one case, the duo falls right in with ‘Turritopsis’; a slow take-off (at ten minutes) which burns its industrial swagger in clouds of distant vocals and cymbal-crashing reverb.

Alternately, To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie’s willingness to play with fire results in some brilliance that is actually quite accessible! Under the chilling sound-collage of ‘Along the Line’ is a pulsating stunner of a song, rhythmic like techno but carried by Winhelm’s solemn vocal hook. Watching its back is ‘I Will Hang My Cape in Your Closet’, a gorgeous post-rock slowburner which is as charming, nostalgic and life-affirming as its title suggests. It’s here in the heart of Marlone that we realize how exceptional the record is, showcasing a genre-skipping ambition that integrates noir in all its hyphenated guises. As challenging as it is vulnerable, To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie have unleashed an unnerving, surprising album – one that, unlike 2009’s trendy minutia, you won’t soon forget.

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