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Zechs Marquise - Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare CD (album) cover

OUR DELICATE STRANDED NIGHTMARE

Zechs Marquise

 

Eclectic Prog

2.65 | 11 ratings

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The Willow Farmer
2 stars My first experience with El Paso based instrumentalists Zechs Marquise came when they opened a show for the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group I attended a few months back. Having only heard a few clips of their music through ITunes, I was a relative stranger to ZM's work going to the concert. However, I was familiar with the fact that two of the band's members were brothers of Omar himself, a tidbit that left me both intrigued and hesitant. On one hand, I was excited to hear music from blood relatives of the man behind modern prog masterpieces like De-loused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute, but on the other, the family ties between the two acts left little question in my mind as to how Zechs managed to nab the opening slot on Omar's tour.

I am pleased to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised with the band's performance. Their adventurous songs, played with keen precision, showed a clear influence of brother Omar's work while maintaining a unique identity all their own. Compositionally, Zechs avoided the pitfalls of needless repetition and lack of originality that many instrumental groups fall victim to. Instead, their songs were diligently crafted; built around strong melodies, smooth transitions, and impressive musicianship while still maintaining a jam band vibe. Being so impressed with what I had heard, I immediately went to ZM's merchandise table after their set to buy a copy of their debut (and for the time being, only) CD: Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare.

This record, however, is not a representation of the live performance I heard. Absent is fiery intensity, gone the sense of focus and drive. Left is a piece of music without a clear direction that suffers from a noticeable lack of variety. Many of the CD's tracks follow a similar pattern. Subtle bass and percussion lines will start a song off and remain relatively unchanged and unadorned for the duration of the track. While often interesting at first, the rhythms are repeated the point of becoming dull, and in some cases, downright monotonous. As these tracks go forward, noodleing guitar lines, waves of noisy synths, and the occasional horn gradually enter and exit the mix. Although this is a nifty way to construct a song, having so many tracks that adhere to this template on one disc makes ODSN seem a tad one-dimensional. Other tracks like the opener, "In Strange Love," or the seventh track, an eight minute sound collage titled, "Attack of the 40FT Wave," lack almost any sense of structure and drag on longer than they need to.

With all that being said, Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare does have a few standout songs, namely "Magmar," "Chase Scene," "Strapped to the Mast/Sirenum Scopuli," "The Sounds of El Morro" and "Black Ark Dub". These tunes have enough movement and individual character to catch and keep the listener's interest. However, moments like these are a rare find and too infrequently heard on this disc to warrant a higher rating.

Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare can be an interesting listen. Many of the sounds produced by the synthesizers and guitars create very eerie atmospheres that could work very well in a soundtrack setting. However, at sixty-three minutes, the album is longer than it should be and often feels bogged down by the repetitive psychedelic experiments that fill the majority of the disc. ZM's choice to sideline actual songwriting for discordant and often jarring soundscapes doesn't help matters either. This is a fair debut from a band who I believe have much more potential than can be detected from this release. I would recommend fans of The Mars Volta, instrumental music, and dissonant sounds to check out ODSN. There are definitely some enjoyable spots on this disc, I'm just hoping for a more consistent (and lively) record the next time through.

The Willow Farmer | 2/5 |

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