Dip a finger into the latest ebbing from the coldwave pool and you’ll find it’s surprisingly warm. While Black Marble might fit most comfortably into the gothic ’80s-inspired enclave, they remain severed entirely from the raw freezer burns of the Soft Moon or the uptempo eruptions of Light Asylum. Unlike most participants in the contemporary reimagining of darkwave, this Brooklyn duo keeps their output small, soft, and glowing.
Every object inside Black Marble’s debut A Different Arrangement LP seems swaddled in a thick layer of nicotine-stained gauze. The basslines flex their muscles inside the dressing, the bioluminescence of the synth leads peeking through at the seams. Chris Stewart could be singing across a foggy Brooklyn alley, his voice trailing with detached amusement as he spells out his wry philosophies. His lyrics come through in fits and starts, but even when they’re intelligible, they’re not the point. A Different Arrangement hinges on melody and the way it wrestles with itself across open space to nestle into a satisfying whole.
Black Marble’s melodic focus pits them across the genre axis from contemporaries the Soft Moon, whose musical manifesto appears to settle along the lines of making as much cold noise with as few notes as possible. Black Marble is all notes, nests and wires of notes, notes in logical progressions and notes that fall just short of where you expect them to go. The old, warm melodies of New Wave and the rigid post-punk spines are all there, but they’ve been pixelated and slushed around into a new product–a different arrangement, if you will.
The result is a quietly infectious record, the kind that seeps into your brainstem and bounces its many charms around without your realizing their source. So many tracks on A Different Arrangement chirp and squirm with soft synths and subtle hooks, yet Black Marble offer enough variation in texture and structure as to keep a uniform aesthetic interesting. They’re the chaos of Former Ghosts honed in to a knife’s edge, retaining the raw heat while relinquishing the forthright emotional barbs. As far as content goes, Black Marble relish ambiguity, straddling optimism and nihilism, never quite letting on what they’re thinking. But the masks only serve to augment a record whose textural complexities and depths sink in further, quietly addictive, play after play.