Noise Sorcery

Magik Markers' potent potions

"You were right to give the record a shitty review," Magik Markers' Elisa Ambrogio says via cell. She's referring to my scathing write-up (appearing last summer in this very paper) of the Markers' I Trust My Guitar, etc. LP. "But," a patient, open-minded Ambrogio adds, "you gave it a shitty review for all the wrong reasons."

According to Ambrogio, more critics should have taken the record to task, as it wasn't as good as certain rock writers declared. But after reading my "bitch-ass" review, she thought I went too far because I not only dismissed the record (which Thurston Moore released on his Ecstatic Peace imprint), but I wrote off the entire band as some rote "punk-noise" act.

Now I just hate to admit that I'm wrong, even when I'm talking with young noise-rock explorers as venerated and adored by the American underground as the Magik Markers currently are. I mean, here's a group (who started life about six years back in central Connecticut) that's been compared to just about every classic punk, hardcore, and no-wave outfit of the past 30 years, including the fuckin' Germs. That's a lofty comparison for sure — one that I initially dismissed, but am now starting to accept. I've seen this fierce power trio (a quartet for this tour) twice since my review, and both times it has laid down a feedback-screaming set of totally improvised free-rock jammers that grooved as intensely as Confusion Is Sex, the Jesus Lizard, the atonal blues of John and Yoko's "Don't Worry, Kyoko," and the ritualistic trance of the Ahkdam percussionists. What's more, I'm a big fan of rock theater, and Ambrogio (like Morrison, Iggy, and Darby) mutated into a sweaty, captivating heroine surrendering mind 'n' body to all the demons and angels within while unleashing an authentic stream of consciousness, beat poetic madness.

Thus, the Markers are first and foremost performance-driven musicians unleashing dramatic visual experiences, especially when a contorted Ambrogio throws her six-string to the floor, straddles it, and begins fucking and strangling the thing until it produces an undulating, pulsating white noise. It's a violently sexual answer to a question this passionate guitarist and singer poses in one of the Markers' YouTube clips, "What if you play a guitar the way a girl jerks off?"

However, spouting all this reminds me of something Jerry Garcia once said: "Working in a studio is like building a ship in a bottle. Playing live is like having a rowboat out on the ocean." The Markers sure can thrash about the stormy seas with the best of the modern heavies; they're that good. But the band has yet to display the sense of meticulous craftsmanship required for producing great records. Of the four that I own, which are all basically live documents regardless of where they were recorded, only the Markers' latest, a collection of two 20-minute songs titled A Panegyric to the Things I Do Not Understand(Gulcher Records), tempts me with the idea that this music could make for a meaningful home-stereo experience.

"We've been really, really trying to do that," Ambrogio explains, implying that previous recording sessions were difficult affairs. "We're going to do the next one with engineers who know and like our band. It's not going to be just one day with some guy who doesn't know our band or with someone who has never recorded before."

"We wanna bust a sick record," drummer Pete Nolan admits. "But we're still working on that shit."

Well, if and when the Magik Markers do — as they possess more than enough talent — I will carry that sick shit to my record shelf, proudly file it next to my copy of the Germs' GI, and whisper, "You belong, you belong ..."

 
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