Sunday, June 20, 2021

On her new album, MARINA vividly paints her signature ‘Ancient Dreams’ onto a ‘Modern Land’-scape

Previously known as Marina And The Diamonds, ‘Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land’ is MARINA’s second outing under her new moniker. Her current era’s bright and mystical aesthetic is matched in substance by a track-list of catchy and thought-infused electro-pop, maintaining her skill for cohesive and expressive storytelling in her music.

The album is particularly strong in bold tracks which also feature sharp lyricism, such as the punchy‘Venus Fly Trap’ on which she sings “I got the beauty, got the brains / Got the power, hold the reins,” and sets up a defiant outsider perspective with the wry opening line “I never quite fit in / To that Hollywood thing” and the later melodic “They’ll shame you, blame you / Pretend to even hate you / Take away your rights / Pacify you with their lies”. 

The invocation of powerful personal resistance to an intrusive and conforming culture shines through in many areas of the album, some more effective than others.

Where the lyrics can be sharp and incisive, they can also be more simplistic and less compelling. An example of this is in the opening line of the title track, “Our ancestors had to fight to survive / Just so we could have a chance of a life,” as well as in ‘Purge The Poison’s’ overt namedropping of “racism and misogyny”. The latter track as a whole, however, has a commanding anthem-like power to it, which is amplified in the previously released single version featuring Pussy Riot. 

Purge The Poison’ is also elevated by its culturally weighted references to Britney Spears and Harvey Weinstein, and its multidimensional tonal shifts, notably the eerie post-chorus of “Need to purge the poison from our system / Until human beings listen / Tell me, who’d you think you are?”

‘Ancient Dreams In A Modern Landscape’ is at its most captivating, however, when it moves from the political to the personal. This shift begins to take place on the fifth track of the album, ‘Highly Emotional People’ as MARINA transitions to a slower sound. This atmospheric ballad is gorgeous in its backing vocals and refrains of the line “I never see you cry.” ‘Pandora’s Box’ is another slower track and another album standout, offering a more personal glimpse into the singer’s perspective. It also bears resemblance to some of her best work under Marina And The Diamonds, such as ‘Obsessions’ from the 2010 album ‘The Family Jewels’.

'I Love You But I Love Me More’ is a more generalised expression of recovery after the implosion of a relationship, but it is sonically enjoyable nonetheless, and fits well within the overarching theme of a kind of transcendental self-love.

 The album rounds out with two more slow ballads, ‘Flowers’ and Goodbye’. The former is accompanied by a gentle piano that beautifully complements the expansion of the song’s metaphorical and lyrical centre: “If you just bought me flowers, maybe I would’ve stayed,” which branches out in lines such as“The seeds we planted grew / But not like roses do”.

‘Goodbye’ makes for a fitting and accomplished album closer, combining a measured introduction with emphatic piano notes in its chorus. It’s the most reflective song on the album, smoothly blending self-deprecation such as “I’ve been a mother to everyone else / To every motherfucker except myself / And I don’t even have any kids” and an underlying sense of personal strength and re-evaluation: “my life might not be what I thought / But I wouldn’t change a thing / Goodbye to the girl that I’d been.”

Overall, the album is a haunting and empowering look at life in the modern world, reflective in its stronger areas of the impressive songwriting ability and commanding artistic presence of Marina Diamonds.

Eleanor Burleigh


 Image: Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land Official Album Cover


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