Review: Marcel Foley - "Songs About Life"

Marcel Foley - Songs About Life
(Self-Released 2015)

Ever since I founded Half-Gifts at age 14, I've made a concentrated effort to scour Bandcamp and Soundcloud for the work of fellow teenage creatives - I've found that for many younger people interested in art, their formative years are fraught with nervous creativity and a raw, unbridled passion that seems to fill in the gaps left by a lack of virtuosic talent or equipment to help them polish their craft. Out of all forms of teenage art, though, I find music to be the most fascinating to study. There is a sense of urgency that almost universally can be found in the discographies of young artists, a creative force that is responsible for many of the most prolific Bandcamp pages I've seen (Kill The Intellectuals, High Sunn Alaris O'Heart). This time in a kid's life, especially in recent years, is often primarily influenced by a struggle to make the most of their childhood's last gasps while still looking towards the future - from a high schooler's perspective, it feels like one's whole livelihood hangs in the balance of even the most minute decision. When you're constantly reminded of your push to adulthood, it can make you hyper-aware of your artistic footprint on the world, goading you to fill up your iPhone's Voice Memo app with sloppy, lo-fi demos, to experiment with noise music, to try anything to join the ranks of your favorite artists someday soon. Few artists are as possessed by this spirit of teenage creativity as much as Californian journalist/producer Marcel Foley, founder of Marcel's Music Journal and a budding experimental composer. In addition to boasting an impressively diverse back catalogue of reviews, Foley also has a treasure trove of well-composed IDM and ambient music stashed away on his Bandcamp account, the sort of page that begs to be explored again and again. 

Standing out among his intimidating discography is Songs About Life, an album's worth of greyscale electronica that pairs off-kilter yet punchy rhythms with gloomy clouds of drone-y synth tones that float benignly above the tumult. Opening cut "Spiner" acts as a happy medium in between the grainy chillwave lull of Com Truise's "Brokendate" and the manic 8-bit frenzy of Flying Lotus' "Kill Your Co-Workers", lacing a squelchy beat with tinny chimes and a frission-inducing chord progression, dripping in VHS-tape grime. It's a solid demonstration of Foley's greatest strength: the ability to seamlessly combine textures to form a warm, engrossing ambience that the listener can curl up inside like a heated blanket. He pulls off this harmonic convergence most beautifully on "Flache Face", icing a layer cake of skittering percussion with glassy keyboard riffs that sound both jazzy and trancey. Most addictive, though, are the heavier moments on Songs About Life, employing a pulverizing D'n'B beat to join forces with a spooky looped pad progression to form a cut that pounds at one's consciousness like a dream-poppy jackhammer - it demands one's attention. I just started a playthrough of Pokemon X and Y the other day, and I've chosen Songs About Life to act as my soundtrack to the game. The two have proven to match quite nicely, as both the game and this album have both mastered a strange balance between coziness and up-tempo action. Definitely check this release out if you're into Flying Lotus and old Warp Records releases.