Magik Markers will never have the fame to reflect their talent, which is a shame and says more about the music industry than their ability to create fine music. One could classify Magik Markers’ sound as noise rock, but only a few tracks on their latest album Balf Quarry would live up to that label.
Influence from Sonic Youth and other No Wave bands are apparent on tracks like “Risperdal” and “State Numbers,” where it sounds more like spoken word poetry over a cornucopia of sounds created both instrumentally and experimentally. Other tracks, however, show that the duo doesn’t limit themselves to such abstractness, but rather have the ability to create complex melodies, some more apparent than others. “Don’t Talk in Your Sleep,” for example, pairs hearty blues chords, drum machine beats and a slight echoing funk vamp all working together to accompany strong female vocals delivering a warning to all potential cheaters out there. Later in the album, as Elisa Ambrogio’s voice softens from the beginning of the album’s more raucous tracks, a downright twang can be detected in the guitars in “Ohio R./Live/Hoosier.”
The album is nicely capped off with “Shells,” a ten minute strain of dark yet harmoniously hymnal-like sounds eventually evolving into lyric support after the four minute mark. What follows is a true testament to Ambrogio’s vocal ability perfectly paired with Pete Nolan’s mastery of making experimental sounds pleasing to the ear. The track is an adequate representation of the album because of its sonar spectrum. Many songs lack traditional structure, making listening more of a challenge, but one thing Magik Markers have is the power to keep you engaged.
This isn’t an album to play while you’re cleaning the bathroom. You’d be ruining a perfect opportunity to give the album the attention it demands. Rather, put it on, sit down, and let yourself be guided. Balf Quarry is a fully complete album demonstrating that sometimes good music is hard to listen to, but the reward at the end is twice as much. It turns listening from passive to active in one tickle of the distortion key.