In my mind a name like To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie suggests a German industrial band with gigantic combat boots and liberty spikes, or perhaps a mascara-and-eyeliner-wearing emo outfit struggling against the problems of puberty, try as they might to constrain it in girl pants. Instead they are an ethereal slowcore group that sounds like a blend between Beach House and the Cocteau Twins, creating eerily gliding songs to the tune of sparse instrumentation. There is something very familiar and yet distant about TKAPB’s brand of shoegaze that can only be described as a haunted house story told by a sleepy angel.
That pseudo-poetic description made up of indulgent images seems like hyperbolic hype, right? Wrong. It’s hard to convey the interstellar floating feeling TKAPB’s latest album Marlone affects upon the listener, but suffice it to say that it is a composite of very gradual buildups, crescendos, and silky come-downs that seems as effortless as dreaming. It just kind of happens. This natural aesthetic is primarily the band’s greatest strength, even if several songs meander lazily past seven minutes of howling, distortion, and reverberating synthetic percussion.
But structuralist music lovers fear not: there is an evenhanded consideration for pop composition present as well. Album opener “You’ve Gone Too Far” is a glacial epic that revolves around the smooth and soaring vocal projections of Jehna Wilhelm and evolves into what snow would sound like if it fell through space. If you only heard this one song and imagined nine other variations of its theme you’d have the essence of Marlone. But then you’d be missing out on the small touches that make the whole effort so worthwhile, like the urgent bassline and guitar work at the beginning of “The Needles”. It ultimately descends into the kind of sobering horror music that typically accompanies films with post-apocalyptic scenarios, which makes it even more interesting and weirdly beautiful in scope. The dreary violin of “Villain” is even more surprising, contrasting perfectly with Wilhelm’s sadly majestic wail.
This kind of seemingly lackadaisical approach to making music may prove too drawn out for some, though, particularly around the album’s middle. There is a definite repetitious quality to “Bridgework” and “I Will Hang My Cape in Your Closet” that will likely repel the impatient and attention-deficient listener, though I’d prefer to say the songs produce a wonderfully hypnotic feeling, similar to an instrumental version of a Gregorian chant. Like the old saying goes, one man’s lethargy is another man’s relaxing escape into the cobwebbed corners of his mind. I will say, however, that the album is too long for its own good, sprawling across the better part of an hour. It’s sort of oppressive that way, and would be a more listenable, and more impactive, experience if shortened into something more concise.
That quibble aside, Marlone is a sublimely realized vision that moves with slow, but determined, persistence toward somewhere unknown on this mortal plane, and it’s quite obvious that the band values the journey over the destination. Through the careful use of glitchy electronics, very subtle nods to traditional song formation via guitar and keyboard, and achingly surreal vocals To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie have created something that stretches across the boundaries of sonic prescription and demonstrates the most effective way to distort time and space. This is music that will linger and gain interest in your memory banks for a long time, so I suggest you unwind to its pulse and drift away.