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Electronic/Dance - Released October 14, 2016 | Ghostly International

After releasing the promising album A Different Arrangement, the synth pop/darkwave duo Black Marble basically vanished. Turns out the two guys (Chris Stewart and Ty Kube) went their separate ways, and Stewart left Brooklyn for the West Coast. He took over the band's name again and started working on another album, 2016's It's Immaterial. Anyone who liked the gloomy, muted sound of the first record, which mixed together Stewart's disembodied vocals, Peter Hook-style basslines, janky drum machines, and synths so cold they'd freeze water, won't be disappointed with this record. If anything, Stewart's solitary work arrangement led to a more focused and direct sound. He boosted his vocals a little, cleaned up a bit of the murk, and gave the hooks a little more room to maneuver. It still sounds like music being played by someone down the hall, just barely making it through the air to your ears, but this time it's just that much clearer and easier to process. Quite of the few of the songs here could have been polished a little more and ended up being the kind of tracks lovers of John Hughes movies and/or the Drive soundtrack could embrace. To Stewart's credit, he doesn't go for the easy kill; he keeps things mysterious and a little detached, never giving away feelings that could stay a little hidden, never dumbing things down to get a fan base. Stewart is content to work on the fringes of the synth pop underground, and that's the kind of iconoclasm that makes It's Immaterial worth seeking out for fans of the sound who are sick of how omnipresent it seems. ~ Tim Sendra

Electronic/Dance - Released October 25, 2019 | Sacred Bones Records

With each Black Marble album, Chris Stewart's music has gotten warmer and nearer to his listeners. On It's Immaterial, his melodies grew bigger and sweeter while holding onto the quintessential aloofness of his coldwave and synth-pop influences. The gradual thaw of Black Marble's music quickens on Bigger Than Life, Stewart's Sacred Bones debut. Where his previous album was literally a departure -- he wrote it in Brooklyn while planning his escape to Los Angeles -- this one is an arrival that celebrates his new life in the City of Angels. Since Stewart wrote and recorded all of the album on his own, it could have easily sounded cloistered, but there's a feeling of reaching out on Bigger Than Life that makes it special within Black Marble's body of work. As a singer and musician, Stewart sounds more confident and more vulnerable than ever. Without the security blankets of echo and reverb that cloaked his vocals on his previous releases, his voice rings out when he sings "I'm just living more" on the title track and on "Call," the album's closing wish for intimacy. There's a greater clarity to Bigger Than Life's sound as well, relatively speaking -- on songs like "Daily Driver," the hazy twinkle of his analog synths calls to mind sunbeams fighting their way through smog and glass. Stewart also brings his audience closer with bittersweet, deceptively simple songwriting. On the standout "One Eye Open," the story of a restless tightrope walker echoes the way Stewart teeters between intimacy and distance throughout the album. Similarly, "Grey Eyeliner" plays like a Craigslist missed connection set to song, hovering between mystery and approachability with a lilt that recalls the Magnetic Fields. Stewart is at the peak of his powers on "Feels," where the oddly poignant hook "I used to have a radio show" expresses the need for connection that makes up the heart of Bigger Than Life. His choice to reveal more and explore a feeling of belonging instead of sticking with the trope of the tortured, isolated artiste is one that pays off richly: With its surprising warmth and immediacy, Bigger Than Life is some of Black Marble's most affecting music. ~ Heather Phares

Rock - Released September 9, 2009 | Absorb