Marmots Treacle Wall

Marmots is an ensemble of Toronto musicians playing Martin Arnold's compositions, and their first release for Arnold and Eric Chenaux's Rat-Drifting label is superbly named. The image of treacle oozing down a wall on the back cover is simply perfect for this music. The music shimmers and slides, taking its time to get somewhere, or just to reconfigure itself. There are eight members but, to this disc's great credit, I have no idea who's doing what. Almost everyone is credited with stringed instruments of some sort and tape or sampling manipulation, but beyond that it's impossible to tell what instruments are playing melodies and what's making all that other spacy noise. Sometimes a recognisable slide guitar or dobro comes forth, but melodica and Doug Tielli's trombone work can end up something more like a theremin. What does come to mind, however, is a lounge-y, sometimes folk/country-ish Harry Partch-like soundscape with melodies that develop and meander. While the shortest piece, the Celtic-flavoured "Sheath and Knife," is my favourite, there is lots to listen to in the two 20 minute-plus pieces. Each keeps the treacle flowing, but they could have also have been ten minutes shorter and still have been worthwhile. Being partially recorded at Mercer Union, I can imagine the suitability to an art gallery as an installation, but there's plenty of compositional charm, great playing and well-deployed instrumentation to more than stand out on its own. This is one of the most sonically intriguing discs I've heard so far this year. (Rat-Drifting)