by: Paige Fuentes
This past Thursday evening, The Bowery Ballroom in New York had a stacked line up of abstract and melancholy fueled artists. The night consisted of the opening act Muscle and Marrow, followed by midliners Wrekmeister Harmonies, and finally, headlined by Marissa Nadler playing a handful of songs featured on her newest album Strangers.
Muscle and Marrow duo took to the stage to warm us up with an emotional aural experience. As vocalist Kira Clark transitioned from somewhat blurred vocal loops to high ranging guttural singing, the crowd remained engaged in this constantly changing set. One moment Muscle and Marrow were howling in intermittent angry vocal bursts, and the next – they were luring us in with saintly melodies, constantly keeping us on our toes.
When Wrekmeister Harmonies took the stage, Bowery Ballroom was immediately transported into an alternate universe. Starting with a compilation of vocal samples from a variety of people, this performance struck me as more of a statement piece than anything else. The entire set was one never-ending song that moved from the far end of the ambient spectrum to screaming vocals while the violin was being sawed furiously in the background. It was definitely a provocative set that captivated everyone watching.
Come time for headliner Marissa Nadler, she graced the stage in a fitted, sleek, gold and black dress that matched the mood of her set perfectly: dark, gloomy, but filled with glimmering vocals. The gothic folk artist strummed the guitar across her opening song “Dissolve” as she eased the audience into a delighted state of sorrow.
Before she transitioned into the gentle rendition of “Dead City Emily” from her 2014 album July, Nadler assured the crowd that she would continue to play higher energy tracks as the set progressed. True to her word, she invited a handful of additional musicians to the stage to help her perform “Strangers”, the title track of her latest release. The extra bodies on the stage must have brought a particular confidence to Nadler because there was a dynamic fierceness present in her performance of this song.
The layered strings created multiple levels of gloom as Marissa cooed to her adoring audience. When Nadler and her band reached “Breathe” on the set list, the energy had taken an obvious step up in intensity. At the end of each verse, Nadler took a sultry gasp of air that appropriately added an element of elegant distress to the song.
Long after leaving this show, Nadler’s music haunted me. I found myself humming her melodies for days and it brought me a calmness that only Marissa Nadler could deliver.