In every interview that Marina Diamandis gave in 2019 – her most recent to date, except for one that she gave to Vogue in late 2020 and the one that she managed to sneak in the New York Times last week – she talks about feeling like she was ready to quit the music industry. Cue the devastation, the burning buildings, the twitter outrage.
As it turns out, Marina didn’t altogether quit the music industry: she dropped the Diamonds moniker and spent the past year reclaiming her sense of self. A wise choice, given her natural instinct for songwriting and her lion-like resilience (we’ve heard a great story that involved a Virgin Records ad, a search for the next One Direction, and a girl dressed in drag). For her first act of self-reclamation, Marina released ‘Love + Fear’ in 2019, a dual-part record inspired by the elemental philosophy of psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross.
Now, Marina returns with her fifth studio album, ‘Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land’, a 10-track wonder that is a more mature and eclectic take on her gloriously femme and thundering electro-pop. The record opens with the carnivalesque and neo-classical: title-track ‘Ancient Dreams…’ is infused with dry, desert landscapes and sounds that are earthy and elemental. Marina attributes these colour compositions, her choice of rich magentas and blossoming greens to classical portrait artist John William Godard, a strong inspiration on the visual element of this project.
‘Venus Fly Trap’, ‘Man’s World’ and ‘I Love You But I Love Me More’ lyrically revive the Marina from the days of Electra Heart (“I’ve got the beauty, got the brains, got the power, hold the reins. I should be motherfucking crazy.”), a project that in its prime, was wildly defiant and wonderfully juvenile. At its peak is sensory ephemera ‘Purge the Poison’, with remix featuring Pussy Riot, and a heady, visual world of chains, leather and female power.
We are brought back down to earth with ‘Flowers’ and ‘Goodbye’ two ballads dominated by piano and Marina’s spiraling vocal twangs. These tracks certainly change the momentum of the record, but in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced. Marina makes a strong case for embracing a change of trajectory: in life, music and art. There is something to be said for the Art Of Quitting. Or at least detaching ourselves from the things in life that no longer bring us joy.
Words: Jessica Fynn
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