There has been a lot of hype about Ben Marc in recent years. His 2021 ‘Breathe Suite’ EP received glowing reviews. It felt almost too good to be true. This is the problem with hyped acts. When they finally release their debut album, will it stand up to the praise or will it all come crashing down. Marc’s debut album, ‘Glass Effect,’ is somewhere in between. When it works it’s flawless, but when things don’t quite align you can see the machinery spinning underneath.
‘Glass Effect’ opens with ‘Way We Are.’ The opening riff is reminiscent to the opening theme to Flight Of The Conchords. It’s catchy and jovial, but here it is underpinned by a whirling loop. This is what propels the song forward. It’s slightly moody, but with shards of hope (this is something that Marc will return to throughout). The beat stutters underneath. It’s a fun way of opening the album. It says: “This is going to be a fun ride, but you might feel giddy when you get off.” After two instrumental tracks ‘Dark Clouds’ features Joshua Idehen on vocals. Out of the gates Idehen’s vocals are gruff but welcoming. He lets us know how things are. Some things are OK. Some things aren’t, but Idehen is always honest. The main vocal hook feels more like a mantra than a chorus: “Tomorrow is gonna be better” – it’s a simple message, but it’s effective.
And this is the secret to ‘Glass Effect.’ When Marc keeps things simple, they work incredibly well. When he starts to over complicate things the album starts to sway under its own weighty ideas. ‘Give Me Time’ is an example of this. The backing track feels a bit buys in places. This is remarkable as the instrumentation is sparse, but around the halfway mark there appears to be two rhythms fighting for out attention. A stuttering drumbeat, a hypnotic guitar, and some strings. Over this Judi Jackson sings the chorus “We just need a little more space and time.” It’s a shame Marc didn’t heed his own advice here.
The title track is one of the standout moments on the album. This is another semi-instrumental. The melodies are captivating. The beats whip up a frenzy and the bassline are deep. It reminds me of going to hip-hop nights when there was a live backing band. At some point the MCs would leave the stage and the band would play something instrumental. Then hook would be the beat that the other musicians would riff around, over the through. It didn’t matter what they played, as you were locked into the spectacle of listening to live hip-hop. The same is true here. The music is slightly immaterial. It's all about the musicianship on display. ‘First Batch’ slows things down about. Ceasar C delivers some great bars, but all your attention is on the string section. It’s moody, but all you can concentrate on.
‘Glass Effect’ works best when the music is instrumental and uncomplicated. ‘Jaw Bone’ does this incredibly well. Cascading guitars and scatter shot drumming are the order of the day. Over this some horns solo. Its simple but very clever. When Marc over complicates things, and the album slightly looses its way. Also, the album feels one, or two, songs too long. This might seem like harsh criticism, which is probably is, but trim it down to around 10, or 11, tracks you’d have a much tighter affair. Saying that ‘Glass Effect’ is very playable and benefits from repeat listens. There are layers upon layers of glorious melodies and hooks here; you just need to spend the time to find the ones that work for you.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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