You could not even make a list of the bands and artists of now who were directly and indirectly coalesced from the work of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones. These immortal demi-gods of the rockosphere have penetrated all genres. So it comes as little surprise to hear another upstart, Marques Robinson, influenced wonderfully and immediately, like a bludgeon to the head, from the likes of Led Zeppelin.
The Marques Robinson Project is a solo affair. Lacking any vocals, this thoughtful instrumentalist meanders through jazz-influenced licks of subtle carefulness to melancholy ballads that could force a tear if in the right state of mind. His sound is both large and small, and often at the same time. You can feel a tendency to want to go large and bombastic, but Robinson keeps things rightfully subdued. So when those moments of scaling complexity and largeness hit, their power is made all the more impressive. There is a reason the Western World’s most famous song begins as a soft murmur and a single strum on the guitar (Stairway to heaven, of course). These masters knew that largeness is to be earned- the daring escapades of pure metal lose some of their edge when seen as a constant assault on the senses. Robinson leans back allowing his guitar to speak the mood and eventually it will climax.
“Quark” is quirky jam. It begins with this tonally bizarre guitar line that keeps the song moving forward. But when the background instrumentals pick up, he begins this almost tyrannical descent down the rabbit hole of nomadic guitar work- never stopping, always stepping into a new zone. It is not a blistering song, but it feels that way sometimes.
I despise genres. Honestly, I do. They place artists in this little box that is alienating as it is damaging. I am not here to place a thumbtack on Robinson’s music, or any artist, and those that embrace a single genre and give it a marketing spin to me are a little suspicious. Marques Robinson is an artist’s artist. He deploys trumpets with sincere dedication on “Ruins.” He implements this tension-filled guitar line that runs through the song, pressing concurrently towards some grand finality that never comes. It is impeccable paced, and diverts talks of a genre. You can hear a little jazz-fusion there with the instrumentation. The tone is metallic and rough, while the latter half of the track is jam band styled. It is a cultural blend- just the way we like it.
At 19, Marques Robinson is making music smarter and more daring than many of the country, metal, and rock artists of our times. When was the last time Foo Fighters was as, um, not generic? His work reminds me of other instrumental artists working in this area, such as indie outfit Pelican or the earlier works of Joe Satriani before he jumped foot first into Chickenfoot, God bless his soul.
Robinson is making music for himself, and even when it is penned from late 70’s guitar odyssey rock, it works in this day and age with nervous immediacy.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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