Album Review

Max + Mara – “Less Ness” – [Dark Entries]

Thurston Hunger   1/15/2014   12-inch, A Library

Right away, I recognized the unique accent and phrasing of
Mara (Barenbaum) from the criminally overlooked Group Rhoda
She’s got this great clipped delivery and sounds like a bleeding
edge android. Is she from Berlin, or some other galaxy. No way
she’s honestly just a San Fran sister as the bio states. She’s
joined here by Max (Brotman) for more than a fashionable
monicker, he seems to be a master sequencer of sorts, the music
on here while often keeping a heroin sway dancebeat of sorts,
is loaded with little frils and runs and patches and icy breaks.
Backwards voice and synth keep the chill, Mara’s voice is swept
up in pockets of reverb. There’s even some vocoder on “No One”
and sampled screams to whip remind a rhythm. Lots of triggered
drum machine make for a shifting beat, you never feel trapped
in by 4-by-4 walls. Artful arrangements maximize the minimal
wave, likely no accident that the album cover is this spray
of color. Still life. That might be a better description for
this type of music, there’s no doubt that both Max + Mara
come armed with phalanx of keyboard banks, and so at heart
their’s is a black and white world (granted with some analog
devices in the mix), but they really seem to take care with
stacking and varying of the sounds. This never feels sterile
in the sound. With other synth-fueled music, I frequently tire
as the same loops/notes/sounds get recycled. Here the music
is in constant and rapid evolution. That may hurt their chances
on the remix dance floor (although “Unseen” and “Concrete Lines”
would beg to differ), but it makes for a rewarding listen
all the way through. It’s Mara’s vocals that remain consistent,
emotionally resistant and vigilant as Big Sister. Spooky good.

-Thurston Hunger

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