Marching Church, the onetime solo project and now bona fide big band formed by singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, has followed its leader’s muse everywhere from their early days of 4-track lo-fi tapes, to Sam Cooke-tinged soul on This World is Not Enough, to outré free jazz on their most recent Coming Down 12". For Telling It Like It Is, Rønnenfelt and his bandmates have foregone much of their past proclivity for wild stylistic swings in favor of thematically unified, complicated, but fundamentally cohesive song arrangements; the studio itself at times acting as an auxiliary band member. The result is the most focused vision of Marching Church yet, but one that has lost none of its swagger, and none of its power to enthrall.
“We have here one world united under the sparks of one enormous disco ball hanging over us like the moon,” Rønnenfelt elaborates. “In one fleeting moment in the light of its mirrored surface we see human endurance, in the next we see doom.” The light and shade he finds in this worldview permeate the songs on Telling It Like It Is.
Rønnenfelt describes the new work “an album which raises multiple flags,” and “the sound of individualism stuck in the center of the modern world, swimming with and against the current.” This never ending push-pull is eloquently stated in lead single “Heart of Life,” wherein Rønnenfelt sings, “my delusions vaguely resemble paradise,” and “Inner City Pigeon,” in which he surveys society from an avian perch and decides he’s “never coming down." This restlessness again is spotlessly reflected in youth anthem, “Up For Days."
The band in 2016 comprises Rønnenfelt and his frequent collaborator and Iceage bandmate Johan S. Weith (on electric viola and guitar here), Lower’s rhythm section of Kristian Emdal and Anton Rothstein, trumpet player Jakob Emil Lamdahl, and Hand of Dust’s Bo Høyer Hansen. Augmenting these sessions are Maaike Van der Linde and Thora Sveinsdottir of the Stargaze Orchestra on flute and strings, and Sonja La Bianca of Choir of Young Believers on saxophone. The obvious chemistry among these players, coordinated with overall production by Escho’s Nis Bysted, makes this the most cultivated Marching Church album to date, unveiling the full spectrum of capabilities and musical dexterity of each player. Telling It Like It Is taps into a debauched lunacy that teeters equally on the verge of exhaustion, and the charged sensuality rooted in our loins that keep us going.