Thursday, February 13, 2014

Square Zeros #8: Marta DeLeon (The Meaning Of Life, The Getter Flash)

Coming on the heels of our first foray into interviewing a full band in Square Zeros #7, Marta DeLeon's visit to the studio was a welcome reprieve. The bassist and frontwoman of Brooklyn dream-pop trio The Meaning of Life, Marta's musical roots stretch across the country to her time playing cello and bass in the somewhat similar (if softer) band The Getter Flash in Seattle in the early 2000s.

For a song entitled "Weltschmerz," the first track Marta brought in is ironically very soothing. Hell, it gets positively sunny about a quarter of the way in. Full disclosure requires me to note that I am of course protecting my fragile psyche from actual weltschmerz by taking care not to internalize the very prettily voiced but downhearted lyrical content. Nevertheless, those vocals float along quite nicely on a gentle blend of clean guitar, thrumming bass, and the low cello, which provides a pleasant meeting ground for the rest of the instruments.

On "The Days of Living Velvet," Marta's cello rests momentarily before providing an instrumental melody that drives much of the song. This second track's surprising last act — which begins around six minutes in — provides a nice crescendo that genuinely rocks for a band with such a dreamy sensibility. As surprising is the song's hilarious alternate title, which Marta reveals in the interview. There's also the matter of the melodica and chiming harmonic guitar loop that get us there: it's not every day that I get to type the words "tasteful melodica part" when reviewing a song, but here we are. Savor it.

That breadth of instrumentation, Marta explains, was part and parcel of being in the Pacific Northwest indie scene at the time of these recordings. The Getter Flash's EP It Never Happened Quite Like That was recorded by Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla, to give an idea where one might fit them into that sphere. While The Meaning of Life tends to rock harder than The Getter Flash and differ sonically due to Marta's vocals, the two share common ground in their exploration of dreamy, ambient tones and their willingness to allow songs to develop into longer forms, rather than just sniping for a two-minute splash. To be clear, though, you are more likely to shake it to The Meaning of Life.

While we haven't been promised any incendiary melodica breakdowns in the near future (ahem), The Meaning of Life does have an upcoming release planned in early Spring, and you can catch them at the showcase at Matchless on February 19.

— JM

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