I have been looking forward to seeing Black Marble, the dreamy coldwave synth pop duo from Brooklyn, for quite some time. I knew I needed to see them, in part because their music has been occupying my brain since their latest album It’s Immaterial was released, but also because I was curious what the physical manifestation of their music could possibly be like. There is something about their music that carries with it an air of mystery. Chris Stewart’s muffled vocals, relentless bass lines, and synth-soaked melodies go straight for the heart, and strike that sweet chord of blissful melancholy that only feels right when you’re alone in your apartment at 1 a.m.
I strolled over to Bar le Ritz P.D.B. on Friday night, excited to put a face to the sound. It was a cold and windy night, which felt somehow fitting. The Ritz was in full swing. The first opener, local ambient dark wave artist Besatzung, had barely started his set and the Ritz was almost at capacity. The show was scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m., which was relatively late start considering that there were four bands on the bill. Besatzung then left the stage for local franco-coldwave act Police des Moeurs to take over. Next was Detroit’s YOU, who played a lengthy but impressive set of post-punk.
By the time Black Marble was getting ready to hit the stage, it was well past midnight and we were already three hours in. The Ritz was hot and steamy and full enough that the prospect of making our way through the crowd to get a drink, smoke, or a breath of fresh air was out of the question. Understandably, the crowd had become restless. This was only made worse by a ten-minute delay while the band struggled through some equipment issues on stage before starting. Needless to say, it was a relief to hear them finally begin.
Chris Stewart, the mastermind behind Black Marble, sang and played intermittently on bass, while his bandmate played the keys. The setlist was a nice mixture of songs from all of their three albums. The songs flowed seamlessly, as Black Marble’s albums all have a nice cohesiveness, with no outliers or oddballs. Certain songs like “A Great Design,” “MSQ No-Extra” and “A Million Billion Stars” were obvious crowd-pleasers, but every song they played felt refreshing.
Unfortunately, the set was plagued with technical difficulties, including a broken monitor and an unusually poor sound quality for the Ritz. These put a damper on the performance, as Stewart was visibly exasperated by the end, which caused for a shorter-than-expected set. When the set was finished, Chris Stewart looked relieved to have made it through without blowing a gasket on the sound guy. Despite these setbacks, still, it felt good to be there, swaying in the raucous crowd to the music that gets us through the day.