Glass Effect

glass effect

In 2020, as part of a “Classic Album Sundays” night at Camden Town’s Jazz Café, Ben Marc joined a suite of jazz musicians and collaborators to perform a live reimagining of DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing….., the groundbreaking 1996 instrumental hip-hop project comprised almost entirely of samples from funk, psychedelia, rock, and ambient vinyl. Marc, who was a music student at Trinity College London at the time of its release, remembered the album from his work upstairs at the Trocadero HMV, seeing in its innovative patchworks—Metallica, Marlena Shaw, Pekka Pohjola, Tangerine Dream, Björk—some of the formal structures of jazz.

Two years later, Marc’s debut solo LP Glass Effect is similarly oblique, hypnotic, and unresolved, rejecting the ordering logics of containment by melding house, jazz, classical, and electronic music. In different hands, attempts at genre experimentation can present at once as insecure skill showcase or rejectionist muddle, but Marc evinces a heads-down collection that is evocative and maintains its integrity. Glass Effect is a subtle record, filled with electronic drifts and rushes atop signature bass, in which Marc tries to find calm.

Raised in Birmingham and the Caribbean, Marc (né Neil Charles) has worked with Barbadian-British saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, Ethio-jazz multi-instrumentalist Mulatu Astatke (with whom Marc toured for over 10 years), and grime MC Dizzee Rascal, who joined Marc on the 2020 EP Wait. Marc seems comfortable marshaling transdisciplinary textures, with stated influences including J Dilla’s instrumental hip-hop, Machinedrum’s electronic layering, and Sun Ra’s interplanetary jazz assemblages.

Marc’s sort of anti-primitivist Jon Hassell formation combines highly globalized, capitalist stimuli—travels in Ibiza, London, and Japan are cited in the album notes—without granting them profundity. There is a bit of Mount Kimbie’s debut Crooks & Lovers in the record, its lack of ego or anxiety, but also a tenseness, best seen in “Jaw Bone,” the distortion-heavy, alto-sax medley. How these experiences and affects collide with a declared theme of Black male “resilience” is not clarified by the presence of ideology or through a subversion of form. Instead, it seems Marc is seeking answers in the feeling that emerges from a creative practice, in the comfort of work as a grace that protects the besieged subject and opens them up to kindred others in turn. This is perhaps clearest in the title track, a bouncy street lullaby of piano, synths, and guitar, too propulsive to be bedroom air space, but too soothing to let Marc’s demons out.

ben marc glass effect