To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie: Marlone

Issued on the ever-reliable kranky, Marlone is the haunting sophomore effort by To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie (Jehna Wilhelm and Mark McGee, joined by various collaborators). Recorded in Minneapolis, the hour-long collection is by turns gothic, seductive, dream-like, and dramatic—often all at once in a single song. Wilhelm and McGee build their well-sculpted material from electric guitar textures, drums, strings, and vocals that, in tracks such as “Along the Line” and the incantatory “I Will Hang My Cape In Your Closet,” work themselves into reverberant set-pieces one is tempted to label cinematic. As the lone voice at the center of the group's instrumental constructions, Wilhem is pivotal to the material's impact and, though her singing at times calls to mind Julee Cruise (haunting in “The Needle”) and Beth Gibbons (fragile in “Villain”), she makes good on the material's promise.

The nine-minute opener “You've Gone Too Far” softly sweeps in with ethereal noises and a ride cymbal pattern, a wistful horn melody, and then Wilhelm's whisper at first doubling and then extending that melody. A funereal languour pervades the song, which ultimately succeeds in showcasing how effectively the group nurtures its material's insidious seductiveness. “The Needle” is more uptempo but no less haunting, with pounding drum accents punctuating the song's cello-laden gloom, while the penultimate “Turritopsis” offers a plodding slow-burner that gathers steam for ten minutes. “Villain” presents a death march scored for mournful strings and sheets of electric guitar, while the brief instrumental “Bridgework” creaks and sways in similarly epic manner. A brief respite from the darkness arrives in the form of a raucous, two-minute pop song driven by a ‘60s-styled drum beat (“In Peoples' Homes”). “I Hear You Coming, But Your Steps Are Too Loud” and “Summertime” beautifully capture the group's gift for balancing Wilhelm's sweet and crystal-clear delivery with brooding, even nightmarish backings that suggest dungeons more than open fields. Without betraying the group's distinctive sound, “Summertime” comes as close to a lullaby as To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie is ever likely to get. Though the references may be commonly-cited ones, there's no denying listeners fond of shoegaze, Portishead, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Julee Cruise, and Angelo Badalementi will find much to appreciate about Marlone too. It's a great recording from the band plus another solid outing from a label that seems by its very nature incapable of issuing mediocre material.

September 2009