Photo credit: Nick Fancher. Photo from consequenceofsound.com
Labels are exhausting. What do you call a band that doesn’t crack jokes with the audience or swivel their hips? Normcore? Nu shoegaze? Geez. Why don’t we just stick with “actual musicians”? Folks who let their music speak for itself and remain unconcerned when the audience members all start checking their news feeds. Such is Marriages. The trio just released their first full-length album, “Salome”, ushering in a buoyant, ambitious era for the group; the three have a knack for pervasive, slow-burning rock compositions, always tinged with wrenching, unsettling themes.
“The EP was almost like a stream-of-conscious thing that we did,” said Greg Burns, the unit’s bassist. “We actually wrote the entire thing from start to end, without any pauses.”
Unfortunately, the process for recording the full-length was not so fortuitous. It spanned a year and half and in that period, the two original members apparently faced their share of personal demons and interpersonal hardships, lending a fiery honesty to their dissonant, intricate sound.
“It was like a cursed record or something. It was really hard to nail down,” recalled Burns.
Like the record, their live performance is understated. They are an act that doesn’t rely on flash and charisma. They climb into vulnerable, stirring places in their songwriting, opening their wounds on stage for all to see. It’s always palpable, and frankly mesmerizing.
“We generally like to ride the tension between things that are hopefully beautiful, but also awkward or uncomfortable,” said Burns.
The album first erupts with “The Liar,” a stew of Burns’ growling bass lines, some synth flourishes and singer Emma Ruth Rundle’s signature soaring vocals, leading the listener down the rabbit hole. Most evident is the prominence of the vocals on the album. On the EP, the Rundle’s quaking lyrics weren’t always decipherable. They blended into the mix, punctuating choruses. On the new record, her vocals are more classically mixed, clearer and more vibrant throughout. Perhaps that can be read as a commercial choice, but make no mistake, this album cuts its own path into the wilderness.
“We had Andrew Clinico, our full-time drummer, join the band for the second record. And he’s a really good guitar player, as well as drummer and very musical, so his voice is very present,” said Burns.
True enough, the drumming is far more driven and diverse in comparison to the EP. On “Southern Eyre” for example, Clinico’s performance is as exacting as it is intricate, weaving an unnerving atmosphere for Rundle to blend her vocals. Also evident on the album is a clear, distorted abandon. The trio craft crescendos as they have never before, big breakdowns like the chorus of the title track, both seductive and ominous.
The members of Marriages are honing their ability to slowly build songs that paint vivid panoramas of growth and anguish. The dark exploration is poignant and rewarding. It’s always reassuring to see artists push themselves, musically as well as thematically. Call what they do anything you like, as long as you listen.