Crunching guitars usher in ‘I Virgo‘ before it is set free and launched into a stratospheric piercing blend of folk and rock and reverb heavy Cosmic American Music – Phosphorescent is in there, Mercury Rev and Midlake too but it’s a blissful sound that is really all its own. ‘I Virgo‘ is taken from Margaret Chavez’s new album ‘Into An Atmosphere‘ which has been described as a “folk-rock opus” – but it’s more than that.
Marcus William Striplin is the man behind the band name Margaret Chavez, but the album he has created has been assisted by a plethora of notable names: longtime recording partner Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, Loretta Lynn, The White Stripes, Phosphorescent), and mastering genius Greg Calbi (John Lennon, Tame Impala, The Strokes, Iggy Pop, David Bowie), as well as Paul Williams and Don Cento. There’s a mystical otherness to ‘I Virgo‘, abetted by the obliquest of lyrics, how to take “I built myself a ship inside a bottle / and for ten long years I was Master and Commander” ? Is this a decade of self-delusion, thinking you’d built something real only to find it was a clumsy facsimile? Maybe. Or the distractions of what seems a real life which exposes itself as the longest of false starts? Perhaps. And once we’ve figured that line out we may as well pass onto the rest of this ridiculously gorgeously beautiful song.
This ecstatically beautiful musical creation has come out of a dark past. Marcus William Striplin had an early fascination of music, an interest fed by his mother Margaret and hindered by an abusive father. To listen to the songs he loved Striplin had to use a muffled tape recorder under his pillow to prevent discovery. His parents divorce opened the doors and bands followed – culminating in Pleasant Grove, which brought him his first taste of success as a musician. Since the creation of Margaret Chavez, Striplin has kept busy writing, recording, playing live, and personally and emotionally cleaning house, vehemently crediting therapy and sobriety before reassuringly insisting “I’m not clean and sober, but I’m also not a mess anymore.”
Communicating under strict observance of the Covid-19 lockdown conditions Marcus Striplin told Americana UK about how he sees ‘I Virgo‘ in particular “This song means a helluva lot to me; it’s a song of self-emancipation, and it’s also upbeat! Stuart Sikes and I have been chipping away at this tune for years. It wasn’t until I asked Stumptone and Bonnie Whitmore to help out, that I FINALLY got what I had been seeking on tape. In one respect, it’s a blues song, and in another, it’s my tip of the hat to CAN and NEU. The meat of the song is that it’s never too late to walk out and/or walk in.”
‘Into an Atmosphere‘ is released on July 31st on We Know Better Records, and it’s an album you’d be well advised to take a listen to.
Photograph: Barbara FG