Marble Valley

Wild Yams

by Jennifer Kelly

5 October 2006

 

Infinite jest

“I got high in my dream last night / I got high on Jamaican weed”, ex-Pavement drummer Steve West confesses, about halfway through his third full-length as Marble Valley, his deadpan voice sounding just a bit like Stephin Merritt’s as it cruises at altitude above a burbling miasma of synths and fuzzily chiming guitars.  Other intoxicants—whiskey, smokes, online chat, religion, sunshine—cause the same sort of detached ecstasy, mesmeric yet offhand, on this great big cosmic giggle of an album.  “Whiskey” builds out of a Velvet Underground-ish drone, a whiff of eastern scales and tones in the repeated guitar line, a rueful verse giving way to buoyant waves of hallucinatory sound.  It starts as a hangover lament and builds somehow into a portal to the infinite.  Or consider how narcotized “Peter Gunn” strumming morphs to meditative mandala in “Rocket Ship”, a lucid dream where anything could happen.  The boundaries between trippiness and revelation get blurred, as on the wonderful “Fag and a Light”, which importunes alternatingly (and with the same stoned level of urgency) for cigarettes and passage through the Pearly Gates.  You could trace lineage to Pavement in the strung-out literacy and water-color washes of distorted guitar, but there’s something more skewed and hallucinatory, fragmentary ideas repeated in mantric chants until they take you elsewhere.  The spiritual blossoms out of the humble and physical—sunshine exploding into a shaman on the third plane, another round of drinks to physical resurrection.  You could read it all as slacker psychedelia, boozily considering the world through a veil of prohibited substances, but that would miss the point: there actually is another reality out there, and you can only visit it by letting go.

Wild Yams

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