It has been four years since Black Marble (Chris Stewart) put out their debut album, A Different Arrangement (2012), an effort soaked with the then-shoegaze scene’s best aesthetics. Atmospheric driven styles aren’t always populist fare—however Stewart’s work occupies a space that is more than fleeting ambient drift, which is exactly what he brought during his Saturday night stint at The Drake Underground.
After the pre-show sounds of The National and Modest Mouse quiet, Stewart and his keyboardist’s endearingly awkward mic check reveal technical issues, “Ok, don’t be mad, but we are going to play the song for one second, but only to test something”. Opening with title track “A different Arrangement”, technical problems mire the show; a setback the band appears visibly frustrated by. However, moving to new, industrial-tinged track “Woods” from their most recent sophomore album, It’s Immaterial (2016), the crowd’s enthusiasm seems as un-phased as it did from the start. The show’s vibes stay upbeat (or as upbeat as post-punk ennui haze can get), as people head-bob endlessly to old favourites “MSQ No-Extra” and “Pretender”, and new cuts like the light-hearted “Self Guided Tours” and the shimmering-drone of “Frisk”.
Despite overwhelming bass issues and loud speaker reverberation, Marble Black’s strong sense of heart and movement in a genre that can lack both while managing to stay unassuming, remained intact live. It could also be a testament to Stewart’s own prideful dedication to craft during unbroken concentrated deliveries of heavily effected vocals, especially on popular, “A Great Design”. The audience appeared to think so too with rounds of applause into, and after, the encore closed out the show in just under and hour, leading to the bad sheepishly slinking off stage, “that’s it!”.