Marching Church is Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s (of Iceage) other band. I say “other” band because in fact Marching Church as a project apparently that even pre-dates Iceage as far as making a racket somewhere. Lingering in the darkest recesses of Soundcloud – you can find plentiful evidence of singles, demos and even Iceage themselves covering early tracks by Marching Church (“White Sails” for a KEXP session). Admittedly though – I wasn’t aware of this until I started investigating Marching Church last month when exclusives were being handed out to some very credible blogs. The results range anywhere from deconstructed Kraut/ambient forays, jazz odysseys and spoken word-ish mood pieces with the nascent punk abandon that put Iceage with Elias to the fore of the new guard of noise/punk across the indie-sphere.
Elias of course describes his sound better than anyone should though as “eight songs of nocturnal longing, preposterous self-obsession and cockeyed etiquette” – so it’s not exactly ever going to be for the masses of pony-tailed bushy eye-browed Scandinavian tarts and faux-hipsters to digest. This is though a self-absorbed nihilistic slash at artistic expression and worthy of every fuck one could give about art coming out of Denmark though. With an open mind and a taste for the rotten pugilists of the Copenhagen art-punk scene you’ll dig it too. Just like Iceage though – there will be tons of people claiming to love it as well. We all know a few people like that – comes with living in a hip modern society.
The album’s opening couplet of “Living In Doubt” and “King Of Song” vaguely pick up where Iceage’s “Plowing the Fields Of Love” left us – dark de-constructed post modern punk that sounds drunken and violent, yet somehow charming and debonair. There is just something about this man’s voice that draws you in – like that friend you have that’s always hammered when you go out and saying awful perverted things to girls but you have him come along every time still. “King Of Song” surprisingly is the closest thing that resembles a tight pop song – albeit one that makes Lou Reed at the height of his snarly junkie phase sound like Roy Orbison – proclaiming himself “the king of song” while tales of audiences worshipping him as a golden god. Yup. Why not? I’d rather have this dude as the king of song than anyone else right now. Complete with children’s choir – the self-indulgence runs rampant through his veins.
“Hungry for love” (the first song leaked from the album last month) is an irreverent clattering of hobo-jazz and opens with a monologue of Latin-esque poetry before our hero marches in of course proclaiming he is “Hungry For Love”. You can almost see Rønnenfelt’s rubbing his bare tummy in some lucky gal’s face – oiled and sweaty. This ain’t no Springsteen ballad. “Your Father’s Eyes” is an elegiac tone poem that further exploits Elias’ sobbing poet image – a trashy mix of Velvet Underground drones and the open hearted ruminations of Modern Lover’s “I’m Straight”. It doesn’t get more proto-punk than that kids.
The second half of the record begins with “calling out a name” (sounding like Iceage on opium and stuck in treacle) and the minimalist/jazz of “Every Child (portrait of Wellman Braud)” an interesting tribute to the famed creole man and Duke Ellington’s contra-bass player – eschewing the art jazz for a programmatic almost Steve Reich approach to off-kilter rhythms to pay tribute to an early jazz master. Not exactly the soft American songbook track that a crooner normally pitches – but instead an evil drugged up European nightmare.
The album’s high point for me comes near it’s close with “Up A Hill”. Positively a horror show in the shape of a song. It returns to Marching Church’s earlier more ambient expressions – sounding like Birthday Party era Nick Cave, complete with unconscious children in fireman’s arms. It’s over 9 minute journey takes you to the heart of Elias’ darkness – and features clanging and scraping metal and a nautical vibe being brought in by a distant mandolin being fiddled with while the ship goes down. Surprisingly the album closes with a cover of James Carr’s 1967 soul standard; “The Dark End Of The Street” – albeit rendered barely recognizable by slowing it down to roughly the pulse of a blue whale’s. That’s as close as we get to our solo crooner tackling the American songbook.
Even though each song has it’s individual mood and objective – this is an album that needs to be digested in one fell swoop. You need to invest 50 minutes and sit down with your 3rd bottle of wine and your shirt un-buttoned to really grasp what’s going on here. It’s night music – maybe early morning and ‘still out but not sober’ music. I must say – spring is here and the birds are-a-chirpin’ outside here in Denmark, but this album will bring you straight back to our destitute and miserable winters in no time. This is the “feel bad” album album of the year thus far. Fact.
“This World Is Not Enough” is out now. You can catch them play live here in Aarhus for this years Pop-Revo festival in May. I can’t wait to see how this is gonna go down.
This is the “feel bad” album of the year thus far. Fact. (4/6)