It takes a supremely disciplined group of musicians to work with two bass players, let alone one as talented as Steve Marek, but that’s certainly what Monobody has always been. Somewhere in the blissful, freewheeling chaos though, we imagine that between so many gifted players, there is a lot of sacrifice when it comes to who gets to occupy what frequency and for how long, resulting in a lot of shelved parts and ideas.
When you think about it, there are probably thousands of solo projects out there composed solely from the resulting outtakes that spring from this dynamic – but not all of them are as stimulating as Holy Western Parallels.
Marek’s lean but powerful future-urban aesthetic and frequent prog-hop breaks are beyond refreshing, with surprises around just about every corner in the record’s run time. Though Holy Western Parallels takes less than thirty minutes to get through, it’s a sprawling journey. It’s not quite a marathon sprint though… it’s more of a determined jog, occasionally stopping to catch it’s breath and say hello to features from Nnamdi, NIIKA, Joshua Virtue, and more.
Check out Marek’s own account of the recording process below:
“The first song I wrote for this record was “Wrong Body”, which was specifically written to collaborate with my friend Joshua Virtue, who is one of my favorite artists in Chicago. I did some mixing for one of their previous projects and got to know their voice and delivery pretty closely, and started sketching out a track to collaborate on. At that point I didn’t know where the song would end up, but then covid hit and I ended up going on a manic writing spree, with all of the songs starting as many layers of bass to a click track. Writing songs on bass can feel like navigating a dark hallway because it can be so open-ended, in terms of how melodies will fit into it and how the rhythms feel against a rigid click — versus how the groove will feel with actual drums.
I got a 6-string bass early in the writing process, which helped me to come up with chords and melodies before writing a bassline in the low register, but I still left a ton of room for others to write parts over the foundations that I came up with. I live with two of my bandmates from Monobody, Collin Clauson and Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, so being totally isolated with them during the few months of the pandemic was a blessing — they played on almost all the tracks and played a huge role in shaping the identity of the songs.
From there, I reached out to a bunch of my favorite artists to provide vocal or instrumental features on various songs, and almost everyone said yes! I provided very little direction because I had complete trust that everyone I asked would bring a new perspective to the songs. It was amazing to just let go of the songs and then hear them become something entirely new — I mentioned earlier the thing about feeling like navigating a dark hallway, and once everyone added their parts, it was like someone turned the lights on and re-decorated the room!”
Despite how dazzled the record’s journey is with features and interesting little sonic tidbits, there’s not an ounce of sound here that sounds forced or unnecessary. For all it’s dexterity, it all occupies the same emotional aloofness, but “Arrival” marks a visceral, heart-wrenching and truly unique turn of events. It just might be our favorite song off the record, but really, there’s nothing here we’re not super into.
Regardless of whether or not Holy Western Parallels convinces people of Marek’s bass supremacy in Monobody, it will at the very least get their bodies moving, and their mind-gears churning. If you’re a fan of projects like Owane, Ando San, or Khaos Lite, you’re going to love this.
There is probably some meaning behind the name of the project as well, but we didn’t think to research it until we started writing this outro. If they were Holy Western Perpendiculars, maybe we’d take a guess at a cross, but beyond simple geometry, we’re out of guesses. Check out Marek’s myriad of wonderment on his site here, and keep our pulses dangerously elevated here. Hell, do both, it’s your life. Thanks for reading!