9.21.2009

Record Review: Marilyn Roxie, New Limerent Object


Record Review: New Limerent Object by Marilyn Roxie

Here we have a fascinating acoustic/electronic instrumental offering from Marilyn Roxie, a young California recording artist with an impressive array of influences and sounds. Her work recalls at moments the minimalism of Philip Glass as well as the diverse, sample-based textures of Grouper and Animal Collective.

The opening song 'Idea Leuconoe" is a solo piano piece built around a sequence of cascading arpeggios; though brief, it manages to evoke the solemnity of such contemporary composers as Steve Reich.

The second number is an impressive grower dubbed "Drift Along/Distortion"; as the title hints, it is a segmented piece, with the first half building in intensity as a sequenced figure is colored by string-synth sounds. At points the first half is reminiscent of the ambient work of Brian Eno, but the energetic synths that mark the beginning of the "Distortion" portion of the song point more in the direction of late 80's shoegaze and noise pop. Despite its title, what marks this section is not so much distortion as an ethereal haziness shot through with a grinding intensity.

"Snowtape" is an exquisite enterprise in layering, a disconcerting rubric of false resolutions with a guileful melody vainly attempting to assert itself amidst the din--albeit a melody composed almost entirely of harmonics and other 'incidental' sounds. This layering recalls, at points, some of the early tape experiments done by pre-Sung Tongs Animal Collective.

"And There I Was" opens with a ringing, echoed-out tone which is then swallowed by the swell of what sounds like a distorted piano. With this record each song is like a separate room in a varied but coherent mansion; each has its distinctive shape and evokes a particular environment. This music is a kind of imaginary architecture--it marks out space.

"Indigo" returns us to the solo piano of the opening track. The minimalism of Erik Satie is an influence, and the passage that comes in around 2:30 is particularly affecting.

"Nearer" contains hints of the synth structures of Gary Numan in its tone. Marked as an "interlude" the song offers a slightly different mood than the preceding; the elastic rhythm lends the tune a post-punk edge.

"The Shores" is reminiscent of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II. The song feels almost like a description of water.

"HMS" is again built on layered arpeggios, here awash in a sea of fuzz. The tempo of the song slows down as it progresses, which lends an extremely disconcerting feeling to the piece, as if one is being somehow pulled back as the music moves forward. There is an almost 8-bit quality to the starts and stops, as if they were in concert with some unseen video game.

"Seagull Room" has frantic, 2001-esque noisiness to it that is accented by a repeated, muffled drum part pounding against the oscillations of the surface. This is a particular favorite, again recalling the ambient Aphex Twin.

"Take It" (the second announced "interlude") continues in the vein of the previous piece, only this timing employing a more acoustic instrumental palette, mixing piano with drones. The percussive effect of the piano in the early half of the piece propels the song forward.

"Den of Stars" may be the standout track of the album. Its brief excursion through Asian pentatonicity is a beautiful break in the sea of noise and space that dominates the rest of the disc. The following track continues in a similar, if less effective, mode.

'Electronic Angel" is another noteworthy piece, combining a dynamically evolving synthesized lead with staccato rhythmic elements. At this point in the record, however, one begins to wonder about length. At 47 minutes, it is a dense affair, certainly worthwhile to the keen appreciator, but perhaps too much for the casual listener to absorb all at once.

That said, the record is oceanic in nature, as varied as a fluctuating sea surface, and so "The Cove" is aptly named. The melodic lead piano segments here are some of the strongest on the record.

Orderly to end where it begun, the solo piano, again reminiscent of Satie, Reich, and Philip Glass, returns for the album's closing number, "Complete Thought." The piano pieces have a delicacy that is at odds with some of the rough edges to be heard in the electronic oriented pieces. One wonders if they were separated from each other on different releases if they might not sound differently.

Overall the record is impressive in its diversity of sonic elements and architectural rumination, but one feels it is still the work of an artist testing her limits. It has the verve of promise still tethered, however, to the experimentalism of development. And this is no criticism, merely an observation made after having absorbed this record over several listenings.

New Limerent Object is a promising release from a young artist who is obviously developing her particular aesthetic as she goes. If these diverse soundscapes could coalesce into a magnetic whole, perhaps augmented by a few of the trappings of traditional songwriting and vocals (think of Grouper's latest album, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill), Marilyn Roxie could truly surprise people. She is a serious artist well worth keeping an eye on.