Black Marble is an acclaimed synth pop/coldwave project founded by its creative mastermind Chris Stewart in 2012. Initially started as a duo featuring Team Robespierre’s Ty Kube, the act has released an EP and three full-length albums — with 2012’s Weight Against the Door EP and A Different Arrangement, and 2016’s It’s Material recorded as a duo.
Interestingly, It’s Immaterial reflected several major changes for the acclaimed act: the album marked Kube’s departure from the project, and Stewart’s move from Brooklyn to the West Coast. And since relocating to the West Coast, Stewart has released his third Black Marble album, last year’s Bigger Than Life and this year’s I Must Be Living Twice EP, a covers EP featuring covers of Wire, Robert Palmer, Lives of Angels, The Field Mice, and Grouper.
Closing out 2020, Stewart, along with an impressive array of indie synth pop stars took part in a charity video compilation Synthmas: A Holiday Special, which encourages donations to two important and worthy causes:
Alexandria House: Founded in 1996, Alexandria House is a Los Angeles-based transitional residence that provides safe and supportive housing for women and children — particularly women and children of color — who are in the process of moving from emergency shelter to economic stability and permanent housing, They also serve the broader Mid-Wilshire section of Los Angeles by providing educational and enrichment opportunities for their neighbors, as well as for their residents.
In response to the needs of the women and children living in Alexandria House, as well as the larger neighborhood, Alexandria House’s goal is to be community-orientated and intentionally multicultural and anti-racist.
More than 92% of the women who have moved through the Alexandria House program have succeeded in securing financial stability and permanent housing.
Save Our Stages : Created by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and its 1300 member venues, NIVA’s mission is to preserve and nurture the important ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters across the US. As a result of their efforts, NIVA was able to win crucial federal funding as part of the most recent COVID relief bill. But while the federal funding was desperately needed, indie venues across the country could still use your help during one of the most difficult economic periods in recent memory.
Stewart’s contribution to the Synthmas compliation is a decidedly 80s New Wave/New Order-like cover of Mariah Carey’s ubiquitous smash hit Christmas anthem “All I Want For Christmas Is You” that turns the song into a lonely and bittersweet ode to longing for the family and friends we can’t see because of the pandemic — and for the hope that we’ll be able to do the very human things we all miss so much right now.
“Given all that’s happened in the last year It struck me as likely that many of us are in the same boat right now and thinking about this idea of missing our friends and loved ones and wondering when we will be able to gather together again,” Black Marble’s Chris Stewart says in press notes. “I usually take it for granted that I’ll be able to see my family for instance at this time, but for me and a lot of us this year, those plans were put on hold. The original intent of the song seems more playful, but because of these ideas, it took on, for me, more of a tone of longing and wishing to be with the people you care about and not having much appetite for the usual more commercial trappings of the season in light of this thing we’re all going through. Also, I mean who doesn’t love some Mariah Carey around this time – and I thought it would be fun to do a more synthy take on such a well-known classic pop song as well as update it tonally to reflect this current reality.”
Co-directed by Ashley Leahy and Stewart, the recently released video for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was shot in Los Angeles and features Stewart unwrapping his gifts — a synthesizer and guitar — and performing the song in a bare green-walled room and in front of Christmas-themed sights across Los Angeles. Additionally, we see Stewart rocking out and passing out gifts. There’s a restlessness and boredom throughout that should feel familiar — like the restless boredom we’ve experienced over the past few months.
“For the video we wanted to get across the idea of this character who is sort of restless and longing for someone who’s not there and doesn’t really have the time or headspace for the usual holiday festivities,” Stewart explains. ”
That’s why we shot the scene of presents being passed from hand to hand and sort of discarded as if they are unimportant or an afterthought, and why we shot the exteriors all over town as if the character is in search of someone or something. Or this idea that wishing for someone or something is universal right now and not confined to one particular place.” He adds: “In addition we wanted a humorous offbeat tone and took inspiration from the classic ‘80s video ‘You Can Call Me Al’ that Paul Simon did with Chevy Chase. I wanted two versions of me and for them to have distinct personalities, with one character really feeling the sentiments of the song and the other kind of aloof and absent minded and sort of breaking the fourth wall with all these technical problems.”
Before I forget, the single is currently available through Bandcamp and additional digital retailers — and will be widely available on Christmas Day.