By Tanner Meadows
Release Date: January 26, 2018
Label: Big Legal Mess
Marie/Lepanto is the name of the Arkansas street that marks the halfway point between the childhood homes of Will Johnson and Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster. It only seemed appropriate that it also be the pseudonym for the collaboration between the two. Each musician has an impressive portfolio of past work, each having taken part of a multitude of projects before working with each other. Johnson’s most notable work is as the frontman of both Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel, while Kinkel-Schuster is best known as the singer, songwriter and guitarist of the band Water Liars. The two musician’s similarly sounding, yet distinct styles complement each other wonderfully. A synthesis seemingly crucial to the creation of their hauntingly beautiful debut record, Tenkiller.
Tenkiller is a slow burn. Each track needs a spin or two before they really sink in, but once they do the uniquety of the record becomes clear. For example, the relationship between Johnson and Kinkel-Schuster is a dynamic that is directly reflected in their music. According to them, a sense of trust and mutual respect for each other, and each other’s music, was born after Water Liars toured with Centro-matic on their final tour in 2014. As each vocalist switches off as the lead and backup throughout the album, their parallels and distinctions are exaggerated to their advantage. Johnson opens on “Patient, Patient Man,” his cadence smokey and low. Kinkel-Schuster, on the other hand, has a sweeter and more intimate delivery when he sings. It’s also important to point out that the lyrical content makes up the bulk of each tracks sound, which only further emphasizes the how each artist complements the other.
The overall atmosphere of Tenkiller is what lingers with you the longest. It’s an odd compliment to say that a album sounds like it was recorded in black and white, but Tenkiller is deserving as it really capitalizes on a certain sense of southern noir. Whining electric guitars weave and intertwine themselves in the steady drawl of their acoustic counterparts. A bleak and desolate landscape, blanketed by clouds carried on a soul chilling wind, unfolds in the mind of the listener as the album progresses. “Famished Raven” speaks on the remnants of a family abandoned presumably by an absentee father. The softly spoken finale, “Tenkiller,” is an attempt at empathy towards the robbery of native american land by european expansion. On and on, track by track, a fusion weepy guitar strings and voices tinged with heartache drift through the air, leaving in their wake a melody suspended in the air like dust in a beam of light, before they finally make peace with dissipation. Solace is found in bittersweet introspection, of which Tenkiller is heavy. In the endless swathes of grey, there is immense beauty.
Marie/Lepanto are on tour promoting their new release, however, the Austin, Houston and Dallas dates have unfortunately already come and gone.