Maribou State - Portraits (Counter Records)

Maribou State – Portraits (Counter Records)

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I grew up in rural Lincolnshire, it’s important you know this. My upbringing was largely spent milking cows, feeding chickens and surrounded by a plethora of root vegetables. What I don’t know about the potato simply isn’t worth knowing. It was a simpler time, sheltered from dangerous foreign influences such as punk, McDonalds and in some instances, electricity. Things have evolved since these halcyon days, naturally. I’m told there’s even an Aldi there now, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a peasants revolt.

Already I can hear you questioning why any of this personal information is remotely relevant to the debut Maribou State offering, the much vaunted ‘Portraits’ which has had their ever-growing legion of followers salivating following numerous EP releases in recent years. But here’s the immediate issue facing me, I don’t really speak their language. I can wax lyrical about crop rotation and the need for a top quality fertiliser but when faced with the sophisticated musical landscape of the Home Counties, well…they’re all from ‘darn sarf’ aren’t they? What does a country bumpkin like me know about the likes of them?

Maribou State inhabit that netherworld between 90s chillout and post-dubstep. I’m going to name it chillstep because no one else has yet and naming a new musical subculture is on my bucket list. Actually, I’ve just checked and it’s already taken, however my description does fit perfectly so let’s still agree I’m ahead of any musical zeitgeist.

Close your eyes and the stand out track ‘Steal’ will transport you, Bill and Ted style, back to 1995 and ‘Dummy‘ era Portishead. Remnants of my dim and distant past come flooding back, late lazy nights ebbing slowly into even later mornings, Mandela uniting South Africa through rugby and The Stone Roses failing to turn up at Glastonbury. My muscle memory is being well flexed and I feel a sense of blissful calm.

Periodically, Holly Walker effortlessly croons ‘…could have had a different life‘ during the track and I makes me question my own existence or whether my life is just a solipsistic play. Together with closing track, the instrumental ‘Varkala‘ this is the closest Maribou State come to social introspection although it does hint at a more deep and thoughtful side to be explored in the future.

The rest of the album, however, is more Jamie Woon than Jamie XX, although there is a similarity to the latter in that each track is actually allowed the space and time to breathe. Jeez, that is possibly the most pretentious sentence I’ve ever written..but trust me, you’ll thank me one day. ‘The Clown‘ is a perfect example, a simple keyboard refrain matched to a beat that could easily have been nabbed off Garageband but the track never out-stays it’s welcome, it is never rushed. It just ambles along at a perfectly acceptable pedestrian pace which is somewhat ironic considering who provides the vocals.

Wallflower‘ and ‘Raincoats‘ are probably more indicative of where Maribou State are at this point in their development. This is more traditional dubstep territory, or at least it is to the ears of a bloke from rural Lincolnshire. They are still reliant upon a staple diet of discordant beats and fractured vocals and boy, do they know what they’re doing? If this is the new sound of Hertfordshire (and I suspect it probably is) then I’m packing my bags and moving there at the weekend. I would go tomorrow but I have an opticians appointment.

The production on each track is simply gorgeous and this is precisely the point I was making at the beginning, I have not come to this album armed with the sort of vocabulary to do it justice. I was reared on a diet of indie rock and organic carrots, whereas for Maribou State, their organic growth came in the form of trendy London musical genres. So I apologise to them for not having the requisite musical reference points but let me review ‘Portraits‘ in my own way and hope for the best.

This is already one of my favourite albums of 2015 and I don’t say that lightly. Why? I have absolutely no idea, all I can tell you is that this album has such a relaxed ethereal quality about it that I find strangely profound (damn, there goes the pretension klaxon again – sorry). I can only describe the experience as akin to sitting in a warm bath luxuriating in quality chocolate, not the cheap stuff but Lindt perhaps or something with a very high cocoa content. You know what I’m talking about, right?

Portraits‘ has that knowingly warm, comforting feeling to it. It’s an uncomplicated, sophisticated listen which although simple on the surface has probably been machine-tooled to perfection following months, if not years, in the studio. If my plan to take chillstep to the masses comes to fruition then I will be requesting Maribou State to be in the vanguard, they have more chill than a Smeg fridge freezer and sufficient step to…errr…ok, I’ll work on my similes. Right, I’m off to dim the lights, turn up the volume and take a dip in a vat of Dairy Milk. Maribou State, you’ve met me at a strange time in my life.



God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.