Elias Bender Ronnenfelt, the lead singer of Iceage, has launched this solo project, Marching Church, that caused equal amounts of excitement and apprehension as I wondered if, considering his singing style, would a solo project it be able to find it’s own identity? The answer is yes. This is due to the wild shift away from punk rock this album takes. Elias’ emotive slur is still present. He moans and mumbles beyond the range of expression he uses in Iceage. The band features members of Lower (drummer/ bassist), Puce Mary (keyboards), Hand of Dust, Sexdrome (guitar) and Choir of Young Believers (Cello). From the “Young Americans” feel to “King of Song,” to the steamy simmer of “Hungry For Love,” there is a dark jazz inflection lurking in the pulse of the music his disoriented ranting exudes over. These songs are allowed much more time to build and not the one, two, three punk-rock Iceage used to throw themselves into before Plowing into the Field of Love. This album throbs, drones and hypnotizes more than the last Iceage album. The range of this album touches on a scope of music that Plowing into the Field of Love did not, even in it’s more rock ‘n roll direction. “Your Father’s Eyes” brushes against Otis Redding-styled soul in its final minutes. To say this album takes sometime jarring turns into the underbelly of western music is one of the many understatements that can be applied to this album. They are not chaotically jumping genres like Mr.Bungle, as it all flows very organically, while coming across like Salsa night at One-Eyed Jack’s. If you have to your rock limited to guitar, bass and drums, then this album is not for you.
The approach to songwriting with this project differs from his other band. At times, it sounds like Elias was allowed to stumble into the vocal booth and just sing what ever came off the top on his head and the band came in and played around it. The more free form wandering is highlighted on songs like “Calling Out A Name.” With “Every Child,” they hit on a jazzy, blues-ridden groove that would not be out of place on a Tom Waits album. There is a more Nick Cave-like brooding to the slow western slither of “Up a Hill.” The last song is more like an outro for me – it never gains momentum and fades out on a rainy New Orleans jazz vibe. The last two songs ease the album out on a graceful note that puts the breaks on some of the momentum built up.
If you don’t expect what is going to happen upon listening to this album, then after the bewilderment fades, the songs will continue to grow on you. You can’t call this post-punk, but saying it’s indie-rock seems like a gross understatement as well; they have crafted some smoldering post-jazz blues punk that is going to give all the kids who have been content just trying to be Joy Division something to ponder. Best played loudly while escaping a hangover in a third world brothel.