It’d be easy to reduce the music that New Yorker Chris Stewart makes as Black Marble to the simplicity of its formula: yearning, washed-out vocals, ticking drum machines, tinny synths and ever-so-tasteful guitar arpeggios. And while it’s true that there really isn’t much more to it than that in material terms, it feels like a plain list of this music’s basic elements sort of misses the point.
On paper, Fast Idol, the fourth Black Marble album and the second to be released on the reliably excellent Sacred Bones, doesn’t do a great deal that Stewart’s previous records haven’t done already. But it’s saved by the sheer quality of the writing here: every track bursts with melody, and Stewart’s vocal delivery, though heavily doused with reverb, always feels just intimate enough for us to latch onto and identify with; there’s none of the “I just use my voice as another texture” approach that can occasionally feel like a bit of a cop-out.
Tracks like ‘Somewhere’ and ‘Try’ have hooks that aren’t so much catchy as persistent: rather than grabbing your attention by virtue of their sheer size and audacity, they get under your skin almost imperceptibly, and once there don’t leave you alone. Much of Fast Idol does exactly this; a record that’s much more than the sum of its parts.