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Marmalade Knives - Amnesia Award winner

Marmalade Knives
by Robert Amer at 03 June 2020, 12:13 PM

Amnesia” is the full-length maiden voyage of Californian psychedelic rockers MARMALADE KNIVES, although a more fitting description would be a diverted odyssey—with the sailing party remaining moored in the land of the lotus eaters. As a whole, the album creates a hazy, fragrant atmosphere psychedelic fans will find most inviting.

Each song swings between structured and more chaotic/mysterious sections with the guitars and rhythm section converging at times in a groovy unison—and at others, taking turns in the musical foreground. The guitars and bass dabble in a myriad of modes, often favoring those of an oriental or exotic flavor; but before one gets too accustomed to a particular riff or ambience, another direction is taken in a tonal or temporal shift. This interplay creates an enthralling yet disorienting effect as themes rise into the air like clouds of smoke in a hookah lounge and as they obscure into the background, others take their place while the instrumental house band plays on.

A great example of this give and take is the track that can be viewed below, “Rivuleting”. The rhythm section takes the lead early on with the bass chugging along with the drums as the guitars seemingly extend an invitation to listen in the spacious, sustained chords. The ensemble continues with a contrapuntal groove—each part supporting the main line in the guitar before another direction is taken with a guitar part of a markedly different feeling, again with the other parts morphing in supplication as if they were somewhere between a fugue and a jam session. The song continues to blossom and presents a wide-ranging spectrum of the band’s sound, ending with an eerie outro that might cause an inebriated listener to have a bad trip. “Best-Laid Plans” seems to offer a psychedelic life-preserver to this listener as it maintains a steady pulse after the optimistic, almost majestic introduction, though it still meanders thematically, swiveling between groove and disorientation.  “Rebel Coryell” sustains a more laidback atmosphere as a whole, but the bass and drums find moments to pound away like an anxious heart while the guitars seem to be serenading imagined creatures in the air. All of this maintains a sonic cohesion despite the seeming chaos; it is as if it depicts a scene during a psychedelic journey in which its voyagers go off and do their own thing. This is the close of the record’s A-side.

The B-side opens with the upbeat “Xayante” and sounds as if most of the voyagers are telling fishermen’s tales of their experiences in the closing of the A-side in a trading off of riffs. This goes on until an isolated, creeping bass seems to remind the group of a missing member who returns in a percussive procession embellished by stringed noodling and a driving pattern played by one of the guitars. “Ez-Ra” has a heavier feel but continues to weave thematic tapestries, especially in the guitars of Clinton Wilkins and Justin Spivey — in unison, harmony, and counterpoint. Like the video track, the album closes with a finale encompassing the wide musical range of MARMALADE KNIVES in “Astrology Domine”. It explores a varied terrain of textures and themes and finishes the album strong.

Amnesia” is a sprawling mosaic of multi-shaped tiles arranged in exotic and aesthetically-pleasing formations. The craftsmanship is superb and bodes for a promising future should this sailing party ever return to their ships and find other ports with similar lotus plants or continue to explore the land they are on. In addition to the previously mentioned strong performances of the guitarists, Mark Robinson and Kyle Herrenkohl seem to be in perfect sync when suited while also executing timely flourishes on the bass and drums, respectively. One particular instrument never dominates over the others, and the ornamental synth parts add a nice touch when rendered and never seem nauseatingly overbearing as the case can often be when a sense of “atmosphere” is pursued with such additions. MARMALADE KNIVES is off to a great start with this debut record.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Amnesia
2. Rivuleting
3. Best-Laid Plans
4. Rebel Coryell
5. Xayante
6. Ez-Ra
7. Astrology Domine
Clinton Wilkins - Electric & Acoustic Guitar/Synth/Voice
Justin Spivey - Electric Guitar
Mark Robinson - Electric Bass
Kyle Herrenkohl - Drums/Percussion
Nathan Warrick - Organ
Adam Kriney - Percussion
Record Label: Electric Valley Records


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Edited 28 March 2023

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