Marble Sky – No Matter How Close (Callow God, 2009)


Jeff Witscher’s Marble Sky project was an unfortunately short lived affair; for just a few brief years in the late 2000’s we were granted only two records and an extremely limited collection of rare tapes following them. Indeed, No Matter How Close itself was a tour-only promotional and had a run of a painfully elite 30 cassettes (and is in fact the final output from the project). Its elusive nature almost adds to the beauty of the material though; a 20 minute affair comprised of 4 guitar drone pieces, it oozes with impossible melodic simplicity in its rarified sequences, yet spins a gossamer chain of complex, smeared emotional convalescence across its span.

“Chapel” opens out to warm but cloudy evocations, this obfuscation the foundation of all the pieces, drifting pleasantly outwards in soft tuffets of oscillating drone lines as it exudes the strange and quiet warmth that those old religious buildings seem to possess. A faint light begins to break through and it’s almost like I’m taken back to my youth, staring at dusty sunbeams through narrow windows during a boring Sunday service, jaded light beaming in tantalisingly bleary currents, almost intrusive in their provision of warmth and light. This gently caressing atmosphere is brought back to the surface in final piece “Sour Draw” as well, painting a barely impressionable vista of graceful and faint guitar obfuscations that just seem to slowly and impossibly take over the senses. Indefinable thrumming captures this fragile and faintly hopeful air that’s wafted along by short cycling tones, propulsive strokes that move us into a quietly optimistic and self-satisfied future like cilia waves.

The pair of interior pieces use a different brush however; “Western Coast” is the most ethereal and insubstantial of all, hinting at a homely atmosphere in muffled thuds and background creakings like a house settling through the day. But there’s a lonely atmosphere in the soft light that permeates the familiar –  lush textures replaced with solitude and tinged with minor key melancholia; it’s like sitting in your favourite, cosiest chair but not having the lingering bodily presence of a missing other somewhere nearby, a feeling of vague incompleteness. Idiosyncratic elements come through in its more empowered offspring “Waiting Room”, the listlessness and emptiness now turned into an active sadness as it moves through gloomily warbling passages, but again like its compatriots marries this to an outward hopefulness, allowing vague fringes of optimism to intrude upon these quietly miserable thoughts with glimpses of more defined guitar through the fugue.

It’s painfully pretty. No, pretty is the wrong word; it’s lush and plaintive and lachrymose in its packaging, emotionally jaded and submerged in clouds of haunting reverb, but not pretty, not quite. Things don’t seem simply pretty when you become as unattached to the solid earth as these pieces are. If that slow cavalcade of emotional frailty captured in washes of processed guitar drone sounds like your kind of thing, you can find a digital version over at Bleak Bliss.