Music Review: It's Immaterial

It's Immaterial by Black Marble

It's Immaterial could be put into many different genres —industrial, gothic, coldwave, post-punk, perhaps even dark synth— but the overarching aesthetic is that of "American Gothic". Soundscapes evoke chimneys billowing smoke, blackened metal and brick, old clapboard houses and wooden cupboards; the lyrics feature robber barons and small towns, dark islands and dead trees. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why It's Immaterial stands out so much: Its world of rarefied coldness can't be found anywhere else.

When not experienced in the depths of reckless and unthinking despair, one can admire this album's intricacy. Chris Stewart's muffled voice, and the layers of synthesizers (some machine-like and unremitting, some brief and piercing, others subtle, long, and slow) conjure up synaesthetic visions of bleached pastel hues, empty rooms, and the sad arc of a winter sky near sunset.

The lyrics are droning and contemplative, and from the dissonant outset (track 1: "Interdiction") they tell a rhyming narrative of loss. The mood takes a turn at track 7 ("Frisk") and we hear hints of movement, a brief journey out at night to stargaze. The industrial rhythm dominates, and voices layer; by track 9 ("Self Guided Tours") second and first person are used more frequently. The album ends in a very different mood compared to its beginning: Track 11 ("Collene") seems to be an epilogue of sorts, a reflection spoken to another interlocutor. The story concludes with a sense of certainty, but a mystery remains unresolved.

It's Immaterial is a major milestone in its genre, and should not be overlooked.