Graeme Clarke began his solo recording project Marble Pawns the same way so many musicians begin, by recording with cheap lo-fi equipment in the basement. Though after a little while Clarke realized the limitations recording solo can have on an artist and decided to expand the band adding bassist Jason Miller, drummer Craig Penner and guitarist/keyboard player James Duerksen to the lineup. Although Clarke still remains the primary songwriter and front man of Marble Pawns, the addition of these three members helped to expand Marble Pawns sound, both in studio and also for live performances where the full band often likes to employ psychedelic jam session style covers to their set.
Marble Pawns latest EP Preconscious is an assemblage of five songs layered in fuzzed out and fed-back guitars, funky drum and bass beats, and washed over with a hazy bit of psychedelic synths. Preconscious has that feel of being recorded in a basement, which it was, in a house in Victoria, BC. And though at times this quality can hinder a band’s sound, it sometimes helps to give the psychedelic songs more of that psychedelic quality. However at other times this sort of lo-fi sound system makes the guitar solos sound hollow and empty.
Preconscious gets off to a loud start with “Masquerade.” Here the prog-styled angry sounding synthesizers rip through the song along with the intricate jam band style electric guitar parts. Near the end there is a longish shredding guitar solo. “Behind the Curtain” shows off a bit of Marble Pawns’ softer side with jazzy guitars and spacey synth echoes, though again it contains a long and intricate guitar solo that seems to act as the song’s center to which everything else generates from. The next track “What Now?” moves on in much the same way and is largely forgettable.
“Outside In” sees a return to the same process of forming a song around one long electric guitar riff, a trick which by now has largely lost its luster and makes whatever is going to play next seem rather predictable. Though with that being said Preconscious sees a bit of a bright spot on the Pink Floydesque closer “Headspace” with its ghostly vocal harmonies, and this time a guitar solo that serves its purpose by providing a bridge halfway through the song instead of just being there as a tool to show off.
Preconscious has some hits and misses on it, and I’m usually wary of judging an EP too harshly sometimes because they are often made in haste, or can sometimes just be leftovers, which will not make the full-length release. However the only thing I would suggest to the added members of Marble Pawns is that they start having a larger say in the music they are playing along with. From what I understand Clarke is at the helm here and it shows and the album suffers due to the lack of outside input. If Marble Pawns are to succeed the band will have to start working together, or else they’ll just remain pawns, waiting to be told what to do next.
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