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Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter – Marble Son

on July 27, 2011, 7:59am

Marble Son is the fourth album from Seattle outfit Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, and it signals something of a departure from the sparser alt-country of its predecessors. It’s a record that takes the band into heavier, guitar-laden territory while retaining sufficient light and shade to stand out as refreshingly different. “Hushed By Devotion” is a lovely, long track to get proceedings underway. It clocks in at over eight minutes, half of which is taken up by an extended instrumental that moves from an insistent folk-rock riff into early Yes territory via something akin to classic West Coast psychedelia of the late ’60s/early ’70s. “Your Own Kind”, another sprawling tour de force, is an album standout.

Jesse Sykes’ spectral vocals seem to fit the devotional mood perfectly, though it’s hard to get away from the dominance of Phil Wandscher’s expansive guitar here and across much of the record. Wandscher, Sykes’ ex-partner, shares writing credits on several songs and contributes much of the creative energy that shines through this collection. For instance, “Pleasuring the Divine” is punctuated by some searing guitar that elevates any thoughts of mere introspection, while the title track provides insights into the discovery of beauty in love, and the accompaniment is perfectly weighted. In contrast, the solo-penned songs by Sykes, such as “Be It Me, Or Be It None”, are often more restrained and contemplative. Her work explores dark themes of death wishes and mental anguish and yet possesses an inner beauty that conquers the gloom.

This is a complex, fascinating record that punches the shoulder for attention. As subtle as it is hypnotic, mixing delicacy with confidence and hope with fear, it’s best suited for a darkened room. So, find one, unlock your senses, and wrap yourself in this intricate web of aural imagery.