Mathanas is the debut record from Los Angeles based cellist, composer and songwriter Marza Panther. It’s hard to pin down a sound or genre for this album, which seems to be the point. Panther describes the project as a prism, having “many moods.” Panther creates a whole world on Mathanas by mixing fantasy, folktronica, classical, rock and found sounds that form a dark and unfamiliar version of pop.
The throughline of Mathanas is the cello. Some songs feature it more than others, but it’s always there. Panther has a complicated relationship with the cello, saying, “I had a love-hate relationship with it since I never quite fit in with the classical music world. I have been deeply influenced by the beauty and depth of classical music, however. I'm always looking for new, interesting ways to use the cello.” Panther has undoubtedly found an exciting way to do it. Her connection to the cello feels more like metal’s connection to classical music. There’s a deep respect for the genre, but it’s turned on its head with additions like distorted guitars or warbling synths.
Mathanas’s most memorable moments are its darkest. “What We Ordered” sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a horror movie or video game. The haunting cello and acoustic guitar set the tone, and eventually, a crunchy electric guitar comes in that enhances the song’s uneasy feeling. “Ghosts” is another atmospheric tune that perfectly sets a mood. Shrill strings and reverb guitar bring to mind desolate landscapes. Panther’s powerful voice and harmonies on the chorus rounds out the track.
Many songs on Mathanas have fantasy elements, which is most evident on “Wizards of Doubt.” Aside from the name, the song begins with eerie laughter that brings to mind a coven of witches. This song also leans into its folk elements by highlighting acoustic instruments, for the most part, giving it an aged feel. The bridge breaks away from this, with creepy spoken word and electric guitar that add to the track’s otherworldliness.
Marza Panther’s debut Mathanas succeeds in world-building and genre-bending. Its mix of folktronica, classical and rock gives it a sound all its own, while its dark atmosphere forms a world in which listeners can get lost. This album has so much to discover-- I'll be listening again and again.
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