Mariela releases EP

Indie pop has been collectively shifting into surreal territory this year, and though Mariela’s new extended play, the aptly-titled Darkness in the Garden, demonstrates many of the same musical qualities that its counterparts both in and out of the Nashville scene have in 2019, it’s a decidedly different take on the cerebral style of play that has become all the rage in recent months. Songs like “Shatter the Glass,” “Misshapen Shadows” and “The Funeral” are riddled with enormous guitars, airy grooves and sensible synth parts that meld indulgent melodies with minimalist rhythms, and amidst all of the sonic chaos that they conjure up, Mariela remain focused, consistent and impressively in-sync as a group. Their chemistry is out of this world on this record, and it’s enough to convince me that they’re one of the best bands worth following this season.

“Going Away,” “Even If We Don’t Know” and “Borrowed Light” have an 80’s-inspired pulse, but counter their throwback elements with grooves that are reminiscent of modern R&B in certain places and alternative rock in others. Listening to all six of these songs in a single sitting can be a bit much if you’re not used to the diversity of this band’s instrumental profile, but for those of us who enjoy a kaleidoscopic musical experience, these six tracks are hard to top at the moment, at least among groups trending left of the dial. There isn’t as much varnish as one would find in a major label pop record, but that might be why Darkness in the Garden sounds so fresh and unforced.

The textures in “Shatter the Glass,” “Borrowed Light,” “The Funeral” and “Misshapen Shadows” are almost acrylic, particularly in regards to the guitar parts. For being a synth pop release, Mariela’s new EP has some of the swankiest strings of any I’ve been listening to this June. They’ve got a sexy grit in their distortion, but the overdrive doesn’t devolve into sloppiness or excess. The mix is a little scooped, and though it’s not the heaviest bass I’ve ever heard, the bottom-end on “The Funeral” can still shake your floorboards at a relatively modest volume. Some serious time and effort went into constructing this record, and you don’t have to be professional critic to appreciate the fruits of this group’s commendable labor.

I wasn’t listening to Mariela much before hearing Darkness in the Garden for the first time recently, but you can believe that I’m definitely going to be following their activity now. Darkness in the Garden is a fearless EP; its sprawling grooves and emotive lyrics form a patchwork of unfiltered expressions of self from the band, and even if it isn’t a full-length studio album, its six songs pack more of a punch than most of the LP tracklists that I’ve heard these past few weeks have by leaps and bounds. Mariela are getting a lot of attention right now, and provided they continue to produce music with the same amount of zeal and melodic moxie as they have in this piece, I think that there’s no limit to where their sound could take them next.

Michael Rand

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