It has been a few years since we last heard from Maribel. Their 2009 effort, Aesthetics, hit the scene with a very tasteful mix of dreamy guitar effects and pure, gritty distortion. Naturally critics ate it up. More melodic than Sonic Youth, cooler than most current Norwegian rockers.
This time around the approach is quite different, both in production and style. I hereby open the doors for a new style of music: Shoegaze noir. Inspired by several film composers (Ennio Morricone being the most obvious one) Maribel turn down the distortion to lift up melancholic vocals. From the first track it is pure association music, something that usually means that the record will score points with me. Images come quickly. Driving through an abandoned city downtown at 3 am in a Depression era vehicle. Untouched expensive drinks at the closed bar. Maribel is music for the late hours, what you crank up on the headphones, when you don’t want to join the afterparty and just go home and brood a little.
Ironically, the opening track (“Falling Down the Stairs”) sounds perfect as the end title music of this unwritten, mystic movie. You get a Memento feel, the whole album works well as film in reverse. The aforementioned is an excellent introduction to the band to new listeners. The vocals are saucy, in the shady jazz club sense. The drums are tambourine-heavy and sluggish, the guitars drowned in echo and dirty effect pedals.
After that fine introduction we go straight to “Jezebel Jive”, the album’s single. Here we are introduced to new member Rebekka Von Markstein (yes, she is as German as she sounds) and a light, childlike vocal touch. The song structure is more conventional than a normal Maribel number, but here it suits them. Actual clear choruses (if you want to call yeah, yeah, yeah a chorus) lift the singer and make the band sound professional.
“Perfumed” is the song to listen to if you want to slowly fall in love with this band. Here the Morricone influence is lifted and you get a taste of spaghetti western like you’ve never heard before. It is whispering and minimalist, with wonderful guitarplay to fill in the gaps. It makes you want to emerge from smoke into a back alley and shoot a tommy gun in slow motion.
Not everything is mysterious and peachy at the movies though. It can get really hard to separate the songs after you have heard 4 or 5. The problem is that the drumbeat never changes and when the songs build, they all end in similar guitar climaxes, then plateau. The exception is the final track, “The Thief”, which is more of a chillout beach number. It makes for an odd glimpse of sunshine in the noir, and I can’t decide if I like the sudden change. The change is maybe a bit too sudden for the wholesome movie. As a standalone single, this could punch in the indie big league with names like Real Estate and Beach House.
Extra points for inventive touches and film score qualities. Small deductions for unnecessary repetition. This will be probably be on best-of lists in snotty music magazines by the end of the year; it just has that feeling.