Marbled Eye - Read The Air LP (Pre-Order)
Pre-order: release date March 22nd, 2024
Five years is a long time. So much can happen: friends move, children are born, family is lost. In punk time it might as well be eons; the entire existence of some bands have come and gone within that space. But for others it’s a matter of patience. Like cicadas waiting to come up from the ground, waiting for just the right moment, Marbled Eye have returned with a sophomore full-length worth the half-decade wait. Read The Air is everything a post-punk record should be: sharp, imaginative, and dynamic, blending art-school creativity, garage rock swagger, and primitive hardcore force like the intermingled shards of a freshly smashed pane of glass.
The roots of Marbled Eye took hold more than a decade ago. Chris Natividad (vocals/guitar) and Michael Lucero (vocals/guitar) met in the San Francisco punk scene, where they bonded over music, skateboarding, and their shared Filipino heritage. Upon Natividad’s move to Oakland, the two soon fell in with drummer Alex Shen and bassist Andrew Oswald, and Marbled Eye began in earnest. Beginning with 2016’s EP I and 2017’s EP II, the band honed their uniquely claustrophobic post-punk sound, and with their 2018 debut album, Leisure, they seemed poised to break out. Then 2020 and its many challenges arrived. Covid isolated the band members from one another, their momentum was halted, and eventually other parts of life began to take focus as the years began to pile up. In 2022, Oswald departed the band, leaving them down a member and without the person who had recorded all of their prior releases. But Marbled Eye regrouped, pulled in Ronnie Portugal on bass, and at long last they dove into making a new album.
“Andrew had a studio and produced everything, so when he left the band, we didn’t know what we were going to do,” explains Natividad. “We had learned a lot of recording techniques from him and after demoing some of the tracks ourselves, we decided we were going to move forward with the DIY route.” Trusting their instincts, the group recorded nearly all of their new material in various bedrooms and practice spaces across Oakland, only stepping into the studio when Chaz Bear lent them his space for knocking out the drum tracks. Grace Coleman (Different Fur Studios) mixed the record and Greg Obis (Chicago Mastering Service) mastered, and after all the setbacks, all the tinkering, and all the years, Read the Air was finally complete.
Tapping into a vein of modern post-punk that’s often imported from the likes of Manchester or Melbourne, Read The Air is simultaneously the most aggressive and catchiest music Marbled Eye have made to date. “We wanted to have a wider variety of songs, sounds, and tones of this record,” explains Natividad. “While there’s certainly the classic Marbled Eye monotone-vocal-over-droning-guitars thing, we tried to introduce some other elements, tempos, and melodies into the mix.” Lucero adds, “We all grew up on various strains of guitar music, dance, and hip hop, I guess when you smash all these things together, the common denominator is there’s always gotta be a hard-driving rhythm and a visceral intensity that people can hopefully latch onto–no matter how it’s manifested sonically.”
Read The Air is littered with small but substantial details and moments of the band pushing their sound to new places: the contrast of feedback and earworm riffs on “Tonight;” the echo that helps to stretch out “Wear Me Down;” the tension that builds in the title track before everything crashes through in its finale. None of it ever strips the band of their intensity, instead giving their tightly coiled sound a new dimension. Lead single “In the Static” favors the kind of twisting guitarwork favored by peers like Institute and Total Control, while album centerpiece “See It Too” shifts from stabbing guitar riffs into a mesmerizingly hooky chorus. “Me and you, not so different through and through / in your eyes you see it too,” Natividad sings with a sardonic smirk.
Lyrically the album is more than upfront with its disdain for so much of society, the way it can chew you up or simply hollow you out–all while insisting on a facade of civility. “And when the hand comes down / there’s a difference between what you want and what you get,” Lucero intones on “In The Static,” while elsewhere the start-stop rhythm of “All the Pieces” matches the unexpected collapse of self to which the song speaks. “Motion” might be the bleakest track the band has written, going from industrial clang to a propulsive refrain where one is “forced to move along / no choice sacrifice / dead eyes / empty inside.” Marbled Eye have seen the present and it isn’t pretty.
On closer “Spring Exit,” the band offers something of a mission statement: “wasted time and wasted youth / and we’re on the brink.” It’s not exactly a rallying cry, but for Marbled Eye there’s a strange determination, a desire to stare into oblivion but not to give in to it. There is no perfect human trajectory, there is only life and all of its ups and downs–the complications and frustrations, and the patience required to wade through them. “Clearly it’s an understatement to say some time has elapsed since our last full-length,” Lucero admits. “It took awhile, but I appreciate quality over quantity anyways.”