Marble Arch

Children of the Slump

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Marble Arch's second album, Children of the Slump, is a sophisticated blend of the kind of dreamy, slightly warped guitar pop usually found on the Captured Tracks label -- gentle and expansive shoegaze atmospheres, laconic French sadness, and sneakily hooky songs that feel like they're gliding past sweetly but after a couple of listens end up lodging deep in the pleasure center of the brain. Yann Le Razavet is the auteur responsible for almost all the instruments on the album, and he's done his homework on how to get a widescreen sound out of a handful of guitars, some subtle keyboards, and a lot of gauzy reverb. Album opener "Reminiscence" sounds like a million dollars, breezily raising a cloud of melodic haze and calmly spreading melancholy like it was homemade jam. Le Razavet's vocals burrow into the layers of guitars here like they are comfy blankets, and the sleepy melancholy is almost tangible. Much of the rest of the record casts a similar spell: "Moonstruck" is a lovely, cloud-covered ballad that buries the feels under chiming guitars and oddly detuned vocals; "Your Song" has a dreamily stately tempo, fuzzy bass lines, and some of the album's best guitar lines; and Le Razavet adds nice keyboard flourishes to the warped pop of "Leave It." If the record was all bummer shoegaze and downer dream pop songs like these, it would be a total success since Le Razavet is so good at it. He adds another dimension with a trio of rippling up-tempo tracks ("I'm on My Way," ''Instant Love," and "Gold") that come across like a low-budget Ride in their prime, balancing noise with melody and driving it home with a giant hook and massive guitars. Any one of these three tracks -- or anything else on the album -- would be considered a classic now if it had been released in 1991. In 2019 they are a reminder of how bracing and evocative dream pop and shoegaze can be when crafted by someone as skilled as Le Razavet.

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