So who is Marla Mase? On the first song of her 2010 debut album, the writer/performer defined herself as “a schizoid diuretic, Germaphobic diabetic , Borderline depressive, Bipolar repressive, Introverted neurotic, Extroverted psychotic, and Hyperactive narcissist,” not to mention “A mother, a sister, a writer, a daughter, a debtor, an actor, a lover…”. A spoken word artist who has made the transition to rock and roll singer, like Patti Smith before her. This litany of impulse and aging from “Things That Scare Me” is re-recorded on her new album Half-Life (release date February 25th, 2014) . Four years after its initial recording it has had a second life on tour and merged back to its Wild Cherry roots as a disco track.
So that’s one and “Gaping Hole”, another re-recording on a 2010 that nestles at the halfway mark makes a welcome return visit as a pure pop move. Heady company for the other five songs, plus reprised that is Half-Life. A drum roll and a call to arms opens the first song “Drowned In Blue”, “I’m on the move, I’m on the move…” Mase warns and the song rumbles from drums to soaring guitar solos on the hard rocking anthem and we are back again with things that scare her; half way through the song Marla has a spoken word break which takes him from remembering being a baby being cradled by her Mom to being gotten by this thing that is out to get her. It’s a double take of a song.
The title track is a smooth soul song and the one that follows it is a disco track, styles come and go with the ubiquitous Tomas Doncker Band providing anything the songs require. “The Heart Beats”, featuring Bill Laswell on bass, sounds like Daniel Lanois round about his time with on Dylan’s Oh Mercy, and Marla takes the science of heart beats (2.5 billion heartbeats Marla claims!) and ties it to “Global Soul” and then to love, and then to all living things, beating together.
“The Heart Beats” is so strong, Marla responds with two lovely pop songs. “Gaping Hole” is an extremely strong metaphor, and yet again, sex and scares commingle into a lovely strange mix, with Tomas’s distinctive husky voice singing back up.
The last two songs on the album exemplifies the two halves of Half-Live, as certain as the two recordings. The astounding “Bitch In Heat” is a hip hop, r&b, blues slap down with a guitar solo giving way to a harp and Charlie Funk’s hip hop fade out. “Hold Fast Your Dreams’ (inspired by Louise Driscoll’s poem, ‘Hold Fast Your Dreams) is a benediction and a lullaby to close the album and couldn’t be more different except for Marla who couldn’t be a more consistent presence.
For Marla, Half-Life exists in a place similar to Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy, it is where spoken word and experimentation meets the discipline of song writing and recording. Co-written with Doncker, these tracks play with genre’s to exercise Marla in pursuit of a vision one half self involved and one half global, indeed universal, she goes back and forth as the songs lead back and lead forward.
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