Marc Lowe – untitled [Expanded Edition]

Formerly based in Fukuoka but now in Tokyo, Marc Lowe is an often bewilderingly prolific musician with a vast catalogue of releases from a variety of projects, ever-muddled by deletions, repackagings and remixes, veering between Jeff Buckley-esque melodramatic guitar-led songsmithery and industrial soundscapes. Sitting somewhere between these poles, but leaning much more towards the soundscape end, Untitled (Expanded Edition) ostensibly deals with the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown situation of spring 2020, but in a way it’s really an album about itself. When Lowe sings about life in isolation and facing the uncertain future, it’s specifically about being a singer in that situation, the “Room” of the opening track (which appears again in an alternate version towards the end of the album) revealed as a studio in the following And From the Darkness.

In its own way, the title also turns its meaning back on itself. You can take it as a reflection of the endlessly expanding, uncertain half-life of the world the album has set out to depict, but it’s also a title that defines itself entirely in the language of the album’s own creation. The lower-case “untitled” hints at something spontaneous, raw and unpolished: an album that just flowed forth naturally and presented to us pure and as it is. Meanwhile, ”[Expanded Edition]” suggests an inability to accept incompleteness, the urge to revisit, remodel, add to. Where is the “unexpanded edition”? We don’t know, and the words sit there, communicating only the album’s relationship to some unknown other in the Marc Lowe Expanded Universe.

But while the title is a hall of mirrors, the music itself follows a clearer path, from darkness to some faint and qualified sort of light. While much of the album is instrumental, where Lowe’s vocals come in, there’s a repressed sense in the tense vibrato of his delivery that he’s just waiting to tear loose and just goddamn express himself. He lets his inner drama queen out in the early part of the fifteen-minute 2masks, but the album’s sonic world is defined more by a willingness to step back and let the music breathe. In the case of 2masks, that breath takes the raspy, FM-distorted texture of fierce winds, but elsewhere it take a gentler tone, with an absorbing sort of disquiet running through Forgiven. And it’s the synth drones and textures, the distant echoes of beats and fragmented rhythms, that really carry the emotional journey and it’s in those lonely moments that it feels most real.

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