Marley Carroll has done some thoughtful, personal work on himself.
He’s telling me about it, without exactly telling me about it, during this interview about his new album at PennyCup Haw Creek. I see him, the emergent artist, and he’s fascinating.
Carroll’s also telling me about his new album, Flight Patterns, which he’ll celebrate with a Friday night show at The Mothlight. On Saturday he’ll be DJing the annual Holiday Liquor and Dance Party at the Grey Eagle, a hometown affair that Carroll has played now for several years.
Carroll grew up in Charlotte. He took piano and guitar lessons as a child and went on to study music at the California Institute of Arts. One particular interest was gamelan, the traditional ensemble music of Indonesia – Java and Bali – made mostly with the use of wooden and stone percussive instruments. It’s clear that there’s nothing Carroll relishes more than a driving beat that makes a body move.
In electronic music, Carroll found the form and expression for his creative energies. He also embraced a studied loner personality. The name of the early hip-hop group he was part of is illustrative: Mr. Invisible.
“I wanted to be this weird, isolated artist,” he says.
Carroll has slowly been coming out of his cocoon ever since, making a name self-recording and self-producing lush compositions. A big step came back in the spring, when Carroll signed with Loci Records, the Portland, Oregan,-based label of producer and DJ Doug Appling, better known as Emancipator.
“I’ve known Emancipator for a long time. Some of my early tour opportunities came from him reaching down and pulling me up,” Carroll says. “Since then, I’ve maintained a really close relationship with Doug. It just really made sense” to join up with the label and that stable of musicians, Carroll says.
That move coaxed Carroll into collaborating again with another longtime Charlotte friend, Justin Aswell, as mixing engineer.
“I’ve known him all my life. There’s a really elegant give and take in the way we talk about music. He understands my aesthetic world,” Carroll says.
Carroll’s aesthetic world has long included mixing analog and electronic gear to get his unique sound, and lately he’s also been incorporating sounds he’s recorded in the field.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world – it’s always been a part of my music.
The studio is this hermetically sealed thing, very unnatural and scientific feeling. I would notice that when I would leave the music studio, there’s this really tall and hissy dynamic that fills up your whole aural space. That’s what I wanted to capture,” Carroll says. “In a studio, there’’s no wind, no trees; there’s nothing like the real world in terms of sonics.”
Capturing that sound “doesn’t have to be something super tech. I usually take a Zoom recorder or use my iPhone recorder and just literally point it up, and interesting things will start to happen,” he says. “When you use that sound, everything starts sounds tall and full.”
Carroll, who lives near the WNC Nature Center, started paying attention to the bird activity in his neighborhood. He learned the calls of backyard birds, recorded them and incorporated them into Flight Patterns.
Carroll, a drummer, says he’s obsessed with how beats and rhythms “interact and feel in the body,” and he urges folks to listen to the new record at least once on high volume.
“There’s a lot of detail and 3-D depth in there. I would like people to check out,” he says.
Marley Carroll will play an album release show Friday at The Mothlight along with Body Games, an electronic trio and Fifty Foot Shadows, who will serve as the house DJ for the night. On Saturday night, Carroll will DJ the annual Holiday Liquor and Dance Party at the Grey Eagle.