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


Muscle & Marrow, 2016

The first time I read the term 'doom folk', I needed to know more. No other genre's in need of a shot in the arm more than folk. While folk has continued to produce top caliber artists in various degrees of purity, it's entirely too predictable. Folk never challenges you. It's almost yacht rock at this point: beautiful but toothless (and just as prone to misguided grooming habits). Perfectly suited for 70s AM radio.

Wedding folk to sludge metal is genius, not the least because it probably fails to connect with fans from either camp. The distance between these diametric styles is a chasm, leaving little reference for how Muscle & Marrow should navigate in any given moment. Charting their way, they've created a record of powerful extremes. Songs that whisper can easily lean into a squall. Moments of austere beauty are interrupted by waves distortion. They'll invert everything, letting a guitar chime while the organ leads a threatening advance. Through it all, they manage to capture and maintain an oppressively confessional mood, aptly befitting the title: doom folk.