Black Marble's debut album A Different Arrangement should make any fan of early synth pop pioneers like OMD or Soft Cell very happy. Or as happy as an exceedingly gloomy album can make one happy, that is. The duo of Chris Stewart and Ty Kube does an amazing job of recapturing both the sound and feel of early-'80s darkwave and synth pop artists, with some added Joy Division input just to make things less cheery. Kube's mastery of conjuring appropriately clunky and clinky sounds from vintage synths and drum machines is half the equation; Stewart's deep and intense vocals are the other. Though there are traces of predecessors like Ian Curtis in his sound, he conveys enough choked emotion of his own that it's easy to give him a pass. Thanks to the decidedly authentic retro sound the duo creates, A Different Arrangement gives off a decidedly nostalgic impression, helped along by the decision to master the album with all the high end lopped off. This makes the album sound like it was recorded and mixed at the bottom of a pool, which only adds to the sense of restrained and cloistered emotion that runs behind the façade of frozen synths and drum machines. There's not a single moment of sunshine to break the gloom, but the strict devotion to sound and atmosphere that the pair adhere to throughout the record creates an unbroken, melancholic mood that is easy to sink deeply into and embrace. Plus, there are a lot of strong melodies to keep you company as you wallow, and the band displays a fair amount of variation in tempo and instrumentation, so that the record doesn't just wash over you in a monochromatic blur that lacks detail. A Different Arrangement might not be the kind of album that one could cozy up to on a sunny summer day, but on a cold, wintery night it just might be the kind of sound you want to hear as you burrow under the blankets. It's also an impressive debut from a pair who have completely mastered their craft.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra