field report no.072116

LOCATION: Bowery Ballroom NY.NY
SUBJECT: Marissa Nadler

I was looking forward to this show as featured two bands, fresh in my world. I had only recently been turned onto Marissa Nadler (and Muscle and Marrow), but both of them are on heavy rotation. It was an odd lineup, featuring all kinds of hyphenated: indie-folk, avant-folk and doom-folk.

Given the higher profile (I thought) Nadler had, I was shocked at the very small turnout—they probably were too, as Bowery Ballroom is not an insignificant venue. Perhaps there was some big 'event' concert going on that night in one of the parks—I heard some talk about Sleigh Bells (they're a big deal, right?). The crowd was sparse enough, it affected the sound—they had to dial it way back, without bodies to absorb it there'd be too much. Marissa Nadler's set played well to it, even when her music crescendos, it's still intimate. Her set was graceful and well paced: never turgid, never rushed.

The opening acts suffered more. Muscle and Marrow's performed well, but lacked the visceral impact they needed. Any band playing a doom genre needs concussive volumes. While I didn't know Wreckmeister Harmonies going in, it was hard to make much of a judgement, as their set seemed anemic. A guitar, that was supposed to be lost deep in effects was struggling to be heard over the actual strings being strummed. 

NOTES: Marissa Nadler; Wreckmeister Harmonies; Muscle and Marrow


Marissa Nadler, 2016

Almost without break, I've maintained a subscription to the Wire—that venerable British music magazine—for 20+ years. It used to be, I'd read every single issue, cover-to-cover; I also used to have a lot more free time. I still make a point of skimming through the month's reviews (which is usually about half any given issue). I make sure to read the Invisible Jukebox and the Epiphanies sections. Though I make a point of reading some of the interviews with artists I don't already know, I try to keep a policy of giving up them if they don't grab me soon enough. The interview with Marissa Nadler's grabbed me. Based as much on the journalists descriptions of her music as her own statements (the Wire has always excelled at talking about how music sounds), I thought I'd give her newest album a listen.

Strangers has a heavy-lidded, twilit feel that reminds me of the best Mazzy Star songs—but vaporous instead of earthy. It's casts a mood of melancholy without tipping over into heartache. Her tunes are dark and sometimes heavy but always drift lightly. Considering it's—at heart—folk music, Nadler carves a unique alcove within it, all her own.

After having listened a few times to Strangers online, that evening I was making what would be my last trek to Other Music. My go-to record store was shutting down and I wanted to spend one more afternoon amongst their racks. As luck would have it, there was Nadler's album, staring at me with a fetching price on it's cover.