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Marcus Marr


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    "I got up about quarter to nine / I got up / and to my surprise / I found a new finger on the 'Familiar Five'..."

    With his new 'Familiar Five' EP, South London DJ, producer and musician Marcus Marr has taken his darkest and most thrillingly outre turn yet no small achievement for a man who can include regular sets at Berghain's Panorama Bar among his activities. Recorded through the long dark nights in the isolation of his Brixton studio, 'Familiar Five'' - the title track from his fourth release for DFA, following 2013's 'The Music' (voted #3 Best Dance Tracks of 2013 by SPIN and featured on Pitchfork), 2015's 'Brown Sauce' and 2016's 'Rocketship' - prods and pokes at the uncanny, a tale of bizarre transformation that points up the fragile boundaries between dreams and reality.

    "It was sounding quite sinister as I was making it", Marr recalls, "and I thought a voice would sound good on it. I thought, 'what is the weirdest lyric I have ever written?' And I remembered this song I had written about a man who wakes up one morning and finds a new finger on his hand. It sounded right."

    "Yes, I'm ugly/ I'm your newborn freak / I'm ugly / Ugly but unique..."

    Marr narrates the song with his finest deadpan lip-curl, managing to make the lyrics sound suggestive, malevolent and wildly empowering all at once. "I was reading 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'," he remembers, "Kafka's 'Metamorphosis' as well." Other influences setting the track's tone include Marr's readings about "familiar spirits" the occult animals believed to assist medieval witches in their deeds and two six-fingered sporting legends. Sir Garfield Sobers, the great cricketer, removed his extra digits with "some catgut and a sharp knife" explains Marr, while baseball hero Antonio Alfonseca is known as "The Octopus".

    No wonder 'Familiar Five' feels like an outsider anthem. "It's about being a freak and accepting it being happy to be a freak," says Marr. "We're all freaks to a certain extent.. You might have something wrong with you in society's eyes, they might say you don't fit in, but that doesn't mean that you should be afraid or shy or hide away because of that. In fact, you can use it to your advantage. It can be an advantage to be a freak."

    In a nod to Serge Gainsbourg, he has also translated the song into French (a language he's trying to master), with the help of a small crew of native speakers. They, apparently, have a different interpretation. They think it's all about sex.

    "I can assure you that the pleasure is all mine / I came to show you/ let me come inside..."

    A life-long record obsessive who dreamt of being a guitarist until his brother bought home a world-changing acid house compilation, Marr still dreams of getting lost in the sounds and textures of the dance music ages and phases he loves and is often asked where his "samples" are from, when they are all his own design.

    He explores these yearnings brilliantly on the EP's 'High Times', which was premiered on Radio 1 by Danny Howard has received plays across Radio 1, 6 Music, and 1Xtra. "I was definitely thinking of Nile Rodgers there" says Marr of the 'High Times'. "I wanted my guitar to sound like his. I have a bit of a thing for that period at the beginning of the '80s before drum machines took control of dance music. People were making electronic sounds because they wanted fresh drum sounds but they didn't really have punchy drum machines, so they were making their own drums with synths and layering those synthesised sounds with the sounds of a real drummer playing a real drum kit. One-off sounds, like a fingerprint."

    If this is the warm-blooded human flip-side of 'Familiar Five's cold, relentless machine groove, then the energy of 'Love Release' taps into the live power of his DJ Sets. "When I'm DJing I like records that just have one thing to say. They're great fun to mix with because they keep it simple. But I also like it when you're halfway through and the whole tune changes the bassline, the key so I've put one song on the EP which is like that. One of the things that happens when you play a record like that, that totally shifts character, is that sometimes the crowd thinks you've just done a triumphantly good mix when actually you've done nothing at all."

    Marr is no stranger to collaboration, working with Australian musician Chet Faker on 2015's Work EP. Work yielded two hit singles, 'Birthday Card' (Annie Mac's BBC Radio 1 first play, #1 Hype Machine) and 'The Trouble with Us' (#1 Hype Machine).

    The 'Familiar Five' EP, however, shows him in his individual element, an artist and performer who understands just how to make superb music for both man and machine.

    A regular at Berlin's famed nightclub Berghain / Panorama Bar since 2014, Marcus Marr recently performed a string of single launch dates in North America with The Juan Maclean. He has previously toured with the likes of Hot Chip, Floating Points, Jacques Greene and Optimo, and has performed at the highly-regarded MoMa PS1 Warm Up series, Day For Night Festival, and Art Basel Miami. Marcus has also contributed mixes to Beats in Space and Boiler Room.

    The 'Familiar Five' EP will feature remixes from Justin Van Der Volgen, Prosumer, Gerd Janson and Ara Koufax.

    Marcus Marr's new EP 'Familiar Five' is due for release 2nd February via DFA.

Marcus Marr

Marcus Marr