Show Spotlight: Black Marble @ Black Cat, 11/24/19
Today, Ben spotlights this weekend's Black Marble show at the Black Cat.
A homecoming of sorts: Chris Stewart’s icy analog-synth project Black Marble brings haunting music to his adolescent haunts.
Ah, California! The best coast can bring a smile to anyone’s face, including coldwave sensation Chris Stewart, who performs under the moniker Black Marble. His move to Los Angeles from Brooklyn following a rough bout of pneumonia in 2016 changed his perspective and, well, cheered him up a bit.
“It just has a totally unique vibe unto itself with the architecture and all these little bungalows everywhere, and it feels like they literally carved this civilization out of a desert cliffside, which they basically did,” Stewart told Terrence Gully of clyrvnt.com. “So, when you’ve lived in a concrete jungle for so long, it's nice to come to a place like this where you feel like you’re in a real jungle.”
But don’t worry! He’s not too happy. Stewart is on tour in support of his recently-released third album, Bigger Than Life, described as a “a rumination on loneliness in L.A.,” and he’s bringing Black Marble to Washington, DC on Sunday, Nov. 24 for a 7:30 PM show at Black Cat (1811 14th St. NW) with Automatic.
It’s a homecoming for Stewart, who told Turntable Magazine that he grew up “in “the shitty suburbs” near DC.
“I was a suburban punk,” Stewart explained. “My friends and I would drive into Georgetown and hang out at the Exorcist steps and drink 40s. I would go to Black Cat and 9:30 Club for shows.”
Stewart recorded Bigger Than Life, as he does all of his work, on analog gear, according to Sacred Bones, his new label (home of filmmakers-with-recording-chops Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, and John Carpenter, interestingly enough). The record is inspired by his travels through Los Angeles, particularly the massive city’s relationship to the magnificent natural setting in which it has sprawled.
“The album comes out of seeing and experiencing a lot of turmoil but wanting to create something positive out of it,” he noted in the artist’s statement for the album. “I wanted to take a less selfish approach on this record. Maybe I’m just getting older, but that approach starts to feel a little self-indulgent. Like, ‘Oh, look at me I’m so complicated, I get that life isn’t fair,’ It’s like, yeah, so does everyone. So with this record, it’s less about how I see things and more about the way things just are. Seeing myself as a part of a lineage of people trying to do a little something instead of trying to create a platform for myself individually.”
Given Stewart’s noted influences and comparisons (New Order, Cabaret Voltaire, Cold Cave), one wouldn’t necessarily expect Sunday’s show to be a swinging good time (and if you’re the type who follows Black Marble, that’s probably not what you’re looking for, anyway). The live show, however, does have a little warmth that cuts through the ice.
“Atmospheric-driven sets aren’t always the most fun concerts to experience. In fact, they can become a little tedious,” Kyle Kohner wrote in a review of a 2018 Black Marble show. “Yet Stewart’s work occupies a space that is more than a transient ambient drift. His withering voice communicates an infectious depressive state, an untethered melancholy that few are able to devise among a packed, happy-sad dance party...the cascading atmosphere it creates keeps Black Marble’s set seductive and equally affecting in eliciting raw emotion.”
Have fun, kids! Tickets are $15 and available online.
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