Marnie Stern This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That(Kill Rock Stars) Buy it from Insound
Transformer, the first single from Marnie Stern’s latest album, graced my ears maybe a month or so ago. It rang with the familiar air of Stern’s first album, In Advance Of The Broken Arm, her manically quick fingers running up and down those bruised frets with inexhaustible speed and precision. Zach Hill, sitting behind his abused drum kit, rolls, flips and barrels through…whatever. But, listening to the song, there’s an excitable joy that really turns that frown upside down, Stern’s unwavering glow pervading every available second of it. “The future is yourself — fill this part in,” she sings, unabashedly motivating anyone who’ll listen with her progressive pep rally while coming off somewhat self assured.
When I gave a listen to This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That, the first thing I noticed was that Marnie Stern sounded a little more in control. Despite the fact that In Advance Of The Broken Arm broke Stern out as an act anyone with an IQ would acknowledge, its oft-times haphazard odes to aural abrasion hinted at a lack of focus or an overabundance of unedited ideas. Emotion wound up its most prevalent unifier and allowed for the album’s lack of restraint.
Here, Stern finds groove and takes more of a cue from modern Pop, possibly to see how much she can fuck with it. Her Van Halen-sized licks leading the attack, Marnie Stern is the literati cheerleader, feet firmly ground amidst abstract rounds of jump rope chants (Prime) or garage variety jaunts into the progressive realms of Return To Forever or Mahavishnu Orchetra (Ruler and Steely).
This Is It… seems to be Stern’s variation on the intermingling argument that exists between a creative apex and a foundational restructuring, or the difference between Prog/Arena Rock and the subsequent Punk/CBGB Rock that emerged from its pretentiousness. With In Advance Of The Broken Arm, there was a notable absence of structure, almost to the point of Free Jazz boundlessness. With This Is It..., Stern attaches her brand of chaos to Fugazi-like walls of guitar (The Crippled Jazzer) and Gwen Stefani club music (Vault and The Devil Is In The Details), wrapping her sound around some unlikely genres and coming up with some wild results. “There are dimensions that I must enter to see what I’m made of,” she says in The Package Is Wrapped, and there’s no arguing.
Her Pop experiments aside, Stern and Hill revisit her In Advance work with the finger-tapped strings and heavy drum roll speed of Simon Says and the Mark E. Smith phrasing of Clone Cycle, reducing any and all instances of easy-to-swallow rhythm into mind-numbing and incalculable storms of sonic dissonance.
This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That, down to its mouthful of a title, is a fearless album, brought to fruition by a desire to push boundaries and explore sound. Stern could very well embody the next era in Jazz music, revitalizing the very insanity that Miles and Coltrane brought to the art form before they exhausted the genre’s possibilities. Or, she could just remain in a class of her own, the sole contributor to her own unnamable genre. As the title reads: Roads? Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads, we can imagine that this is not only a movie quote, but the artist's realization. We'll see where she goes from here.