There’s a lot of reasons why artists make cover albums. It’s a way to pay tribute to music that has helped shape them to becoming musicians themselves, seeing as they were also fans in their own right. It could also be a way to get out of a rut during a period of writer’s block. Singer songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Christ Stewart of Black Marble fame did it for the fans. The selection of songs in their latest EP “I Must Be Living Twice” has already been a mainstay during their live performances. These songs were once intended as additions to liven up the shows and not much else. Yet fans and listeners have been asking them for a release date, regardless of whether or not they recognized these songs as covers.
And so the 5 track EP was produced and released in 2020, at a time where live shows have been closing down all over the globe. “I Must Be Living Twice” pays tribute to various artists, ranging from obscure album tracks to straight up radio hits. The Black Marble signature style of new wave and synth pop that heavily borrows from New Order give these decade-old songs a retro-futuristic look. An interesting dynamic that makes listening to both versions side-by-side a good way to spend an evening.
The EP starts with Robert Palmer’s “Johnny and Mary”. While the original has fuzzier synths and sharper cuts, Stewart adds a colder reverb and subtle drum pads and synths to fill up the atmosphere. “Golden Age was one of the hidden gems of Lives of Angels. Guitar wahs are replaced with gleaming textures, which makes this a smoother and more meditative experience compared to the original.
Stewart’s selection may be varied in their time periods, but each track comfortably fits in with the Black Marble discography, making this EP a good companion piece to 2019’s Bigger Than Life. “In Manchester” is played closely to the original, which is fitting since “Wire” has been a large influence in Stewart’s music.
The album ends with Grouper’s “Poison Tree”. Stewart gives this a dark and haunting spin, obscuring his vocals with an aqueous filter while accompanied by cold arpeggiated keys. Synth embellishments gives this song a cavernous atmosphere, making it more eerie and unsettling than its otherworldly original.
I Must Be Living Twice opens up Black Marble’s influences and sensibilities. This EP is a treat for fans who have been waiting for this and a good introduction for new listeners.