Feb 2018 28

Jim Marcus - WonderlandJim Marcus
Category: Electronic / Ambient / Alternative
Album: Wonderland
Blurb: Less aggressive than his other bands, but just as intense and poignant in its songwriting, this album marks a fine solo outing from one of the Chicago industrial scene’s most creative and celebrated figures.


Throughout his career spanning three decades, Jim Marcus has been one of the Chicago industrial scene’s most creative and chameleonic entities. From the funk-infused and sometimes noisy industrial of Die Warzau to the slightly more poppy, highly danceable frenzy of GoFight, he has transcended any notions of genre in favor of heartfelt and intelligent songwriting topped off with an adventurous sonic spirit. With Wonderland, his debut solo album, he sheds the expectations of his former bands to deliver an album of low-key ambient/electronic that retains his signature soulful melodiousness.

Like Alice through the looking glass, Wonderland begins with an almost ominous rumbling of cold ambience, the skittering of a scratchy percussive loop enticing us into a strange foreign territory that gradually fades into the song proper. Splashes of bluesy electric piano and acoustic guitar underscored by a sublime bass and shrill electronic noise create an atmosphere of pure chilled out groove punctuated by the eventual arrival of congas, Marcus’ whispering voice lamenting “I lost that angel in your eyes.” From start to finish, Wonderland reveals a vulnerable and meditative spirit, as if the whole album were Marcus’ confessional, an admission of his deepest thoughts contemplating a beautiful world that should be experienced… but may not actually exist. Such is the case with “Radio,” the repeating bass line, twinkling pianos, xylophone-like tones reminiscent of the more somber moments of Nine Inch Nails, the words an almost familiar pleading for a connection beyond the ethereality of the radio for something more tangible, physical, real. Similarly, the chiming keyboards and acoustic guitars along with jazzy bass of “Little Superman” create an appropriately airy backdrop for a lushly harmonized and lyrically defiant chorus, while “Bleeding Out” is notable for its darkly urban noir vibe as Mars Williams’ howling saxophone mirrors the longing and desperation felt in the lyrics. Another bluesy number, “Rain” is one of Wonderland’s catchiest and breathiest moments with a strident bass, vocalized rhythmic loops, and acoustic guitar arpeggios, while the entirely a cappella “Carry Me Home” is sure to turn a few heads for its African missionary vibe, and damned if you don’t find yourself singing along with it. Already something of an acoustic ballad in its original form on the 2004 Convenience album, a more stripped down rendition of Die Warzau’s “Shine” is offered here, before the title track literally bids us farewell; the sparse resonance of the jazzy beat, distant acoustic guitar, and electronics skittering like chirping crickets instill a sense of emptiness as the chorus coldly tells us to “Say goodbye to Wonderland, she’s closed for the night,” as if the song is a final affirmation that that beautiful object of desire is once and for all gone.

It’s admirable when an artist already renowned for his diverse and exploratory sound can still throw a stylistic curveball that is at once familiar yet refreshingly new. As he’s done on past Die Warzau albums, ambient interludes tie each track together, like segues from one corner of Wonderland to the other. It’s not difficult to imagine that these songs were created over the course of several years while recording for his other bands; they all retain Marcus’ identifiably soulful and melodic songwriting, given a more poignant and personal lyrical focus in this more wistful musical style. It’s not as aggressive or as animated as what one might expect from his other bands, but even in its melancholia, the songwriting is just as intense and the skillful production is just as lively, making Jim Marcus’ Wonderland a fine solo outing.
Track list:

  1. Interiors
  2. Butterfly Wings
  3. Bleeding Out
  4. Radio
  5. Carry Me Home
  6. Number 12
  7. Rain
  8. Little Superman
  9. Shine
  10. Wonderland

Jim Marcus
Facebook, Bandcamp
Website, Bandcamp
Purchase at:
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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