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Personal Space: Corey Dargel and Matt Marks

Two rising stars of the art song scene and its homebase label New Amsterdam turn pop songs inside out and back to replace the dream with the truth

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by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: June, 2010
It's like rollerskating from straight from Xanadu into the Void.
by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: June, 2010
It's like rollerskating from straight from Xanadu into the Void.

Corey Dargel
Someone Will Take Care of Me

(New Amsterdam)

Matt Marks
The Little Death, Vol. 1

(New Amsterdam)

Corey Dargel's art is a gift. His previous album Other People's Love Songs were actual gifts, little art songs commissioned as gifts from and to his friends and admirers. His most recent Someone Will Take Care of Me is more like the gift of transparency, the delicate exposing of one's complicated emotions that hopefully will beget some understanding. The album comprises two discs of such material drawn from his theatrical pieces Thirteen Near-Death Experiences and Removable Parts . The former finds him offering frank admissions against a delicate Calder mobile of winds and strings: I need a constant supply just to get by ("Twelve Year Old Scotch"), it's not merely an inflammation under my skin ("Deep Down Inside"), Yes, I've been hurt/Are you entertained ("Someone Else's Pain") all precise emotionally as their are musically. It is as if the  heart is cracked open to watch its clock-parts whirl and tick.

The songs on the Removable Parts disc, a succession of parts like "Toes," "Fingers," Brain" and permutations thereof: "Fully Functional" and "Castration," are more dense, closer to the saturation of pop music without necessarily being so. The lyrics unfold into a sing song conversation over magisterial chamber piano like a lover regaling their week; you half-listen to the details absorbing the gist. Like many of the young lions of art song,  there is more than a touch of Depeche Mode artier years to his work, delicate arrangements of mild clatter over soundscapes smooth as clotted cream. They seem like a over-complicated way to get to a melody, but perhaps that is the most honest way to convey real love in a song.

Matt Marks' The Little Death, Vol. 1 is of thicker stuff, described by the composer as a 'post-Christian nihilist pop opera'  but one that has more in common with Air Supply than it does the Ring. The "Penetration Overture" is blatantly lush, the kind of sonic situation in which you'd expect Peter Gabriel to show up any second, but instead the voices (his and that of Mellissa Hughes) hide among the breeze. These little teenage tone poems to there being no God do what any great pop aspires to do; conflate the spiritual with the hormonal, but Marks adds subtle literal touches like samples of 70's gospel records and the herky-jerky panic of new wave obsessive love, occasionally ratcheted up to hyper-speed to capture the leaps between Heaven and the body.

The Little Death does not shy away from the saccharine but isn't above corrupting it as well. "He Touched Me" gets its dreamboat rocked by sudden hip-hop samples, as if to confuse the He's. "I Like Stuff" sounds like an excerpt from the world's worst student musical, an "Everything You Can Do I Can Do Better" riff that should send you running to the exits until it hits you that the litany of likes are all commercials of sorts that culminate in "I like Jesus." The song lays out the crossed purposes of the sacred and the profane to intersect over the will, and the channeling thereof. The Little Death is musical drama for the post-Glee set, using the medium's uplift to tear the fake walls away. It's like rollerskating from straight from Xanadu into the Void.

Photo of Corey Dargel by Samantha West

Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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