Marriages – “Skin” (Stereogum Premiere)

Red Sparowes were an excellent instrumental post-rock band in the vein of Russian Circles or Pelican, but they had one unusual structural flaw: Their guitarist Emma Ruth Rundle was also a fucking great singer. Who knew? I mean, I guess the members of Red Sparowes figured it out for themselves eventually, because that band split in 2010, and by 2011, Rundle and fellow Sparowes Greg Burns and Dave Clifford had formed a new group, Marriages, this time putting a mic in front of Rundle and building songs as much around her voice as the instruments surrounding it. The initial Marriages lineup featured Rundle singing and playing guitar, Burns on bass and synths, and Clifford on drums, and in 2012, they released a very good EP called Kitsune. (Later that year, Clifford left the band, eventually replaced by new drummer Andrew Clinco.) Marriages played out a lot behind Kitsune, doing a tour with Russian Circles and Chelsea Wolfe in 2012, and a tour with Deafheaven in 2013. Last year, though, Rundle stepped fully into the spotlight, releasing her solo debut, Some Heavy Ocean. It was a total revelation. On Kitsune, Rundle’s voice was merely one element in a mighty sound, but on Some Heavy Ocean, Rundle’s voice was the mighty sound. Now, Marriages are set to release their debut full-length, Salome, and it is a MASSIVE leap forward — from Red Sparowes, from Kitsune, from Some Heavy Ocean. It’s the best thing any of these guys has ever been involved with, and one of my favorite albums of early 2015. It’s hard to even recognize this version of Marriages as the same band that made Kitsune. That EP was good, but it was blurry and blunt, where Salome is detailed and dynamic. You can spot plenty of influences here, most of them cool and dark and British: Cocteau Twins, Talk Talk, Echo And The Bunnymen, Siouxsie, the Cure, the Sundays, early Verve … Basically Marriages are drawing from some of the best and most iconic music of the ’80s and ’90s, but man, they are owning it, making it immediate, but also timeless.

I don’t want to downplay the work being done here by Burns and/or Clinco, because make no mistake, those guys are WORKING. Burns’ synths don’t dominate the sound, but they often provide these songs with their essential texture. Furthermore, without a good rhythm section, this music might just float away and disappear; these guys, though, are a great rhythm section, and they drive the songs into your chest like a goddamn ice pick. But Rundle is a magician, an acrobat; she’s the thing you’re watching, the thing that’s taking your breath away. Her guitars can be anywhere or everywhere, doing anything or everything: an ambient hue or a melody line or a frantic lead or a monster riff; drifting or melting or clawing or crushing. And her voice is even more extraordinary, even more expressive: a wild Olympian spirit howling big, ancient melodies, expressing big, ancient emotions. You just gotta hear it. Fortunately, you can do that right now. We’ve got the first single from Salome for you to hear today. It’s called “Skin” and it is very, very good. Listen.

Salome is out 4/7 via Sargent House. Marriages are now on the road with Helms Alee. Here are the dates:

01/23 Los Angeles, CA @ Jewels Catch One w/ Helms Alee
01/24 San Diego, CA @ The Hideout w/ Helms Alee
01/26 Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom w/ Helms Alee
01/27 Las Vegas, NV @ Bunkhouse w/ Helms Alee
01/28 San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock Tavern w/ Helms Alee
01/30 Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar w/ Helms Alee
01/31 Seattle, WA @ Neumos w/ Helms Alee