MAGIK MARKERS - boss CD, Ecstatic Peace




“When confronted with an example of magnificence in nature, such as a waterfall, Jane Goodall reported that the chimpanzees she observed were captivated, as if in awe of the beauty of the world. On BOSS, the Magik Markers have tried to capture the chimps’ awe. A formality and restraint the Markers have never exerted on their previous recorded material is present on BOSS. Now the Markers are Jainists, with their mouths masked so as to not inhale even one tiny insect, here pursuing the killer gentle with a vengeance. Recorded in the cavernous dark of Echo Canyon West, with producer Lee Ranaldo working the boards like a diviner, BOSS documents the Markers with a previously unheard fidelity and orchestration. Idiosyncratic song structure and melodies interspersed with a destructive drum stomp are reminiscent of the early electrified blues of Junior Kimbrough, or the black hole rhythms of Kousokuya. Mixing a gentle vulnerability with a winded egomania, the Markers have always had a musical tunnel vision; BOSS is that vision made manifest. The tug of war the Markers enact, the way they are fully prepared to start yanking their world apart as they find themselves losing their place in, makes moot possibilities of greatness or mediocrity. It makes them unapologetic soothsayers with their ears pressed to the ground, waiting for footsteps. With Peter Nolan, we finally hear what Lou Reed would have sounded like had he sallied with the drums instead of getting seduced by the easy praise of front man status. Like Rashid Ali squeezed into the Teutonic leather pants of Faust, Nolan drums like there are hell hounds at his heels but he just can’t be bothered. Here both laconic and frenzied, Nolan’s drumming arms reach out like an octopus’s: tickling the ivories, humming the organ and blasting taps on some kind of endtime trumpet. As a pianist, Nolan reminds us that the piano is a percussive, beating out the whoomp of some old war dance, a bare foot-fall rhythm of fighters to battle and the heavy hands of a whiskey burlesque in the afternoon. Nolan is easy to underestimate, but finally, here is high fidelity record of the strange soul of one of America’s most natural and quizzical musical minds. In a 2005 interview in The Wire, Elisa Ambrogio said, “I want [The Magik Markers] to concentrate on music and focus inward, to concentrate on our own language of sound.” BOSS stands as the Markers’ first stab at getting to the meat of this ambition. Ambrogio is not easy to categorize. Nose deep in New England Calvinism and the brutality of nature, Ambrogio’s lyrics are like a transcription of a drunk lunchtime argument between Lisa Yuskavage and Herman Melville. A guitarist whose notes form question and hatchet marks with equal measure, a musical humility to the point of ingratiation fused with all visible seams to grandiose self-importance speeds through her playing. With a mix of blues simplicity, an almost Sonny Sharrock wailing and a janky Americana punk reminiscent of Pat Place and Roky Erickson, Ambrogio avoids preciousness like a rash. On BOSS, a tent rises right out of the empty plain and we are thrust into a full blown revival show with no audience and no lights; it is just Elisa preaching, Pete blowing Gabriel’s horn, and the mad wind of the prairie blowing all around. Fairfield Porter wrote that: ‘Art does not succeed by compelling you to like it, but by making you feel this presence in it. ‘Is someone there?…’ The Magik Markers are there.”