As front-man of Melbourne’s Deloris, Marcus Teague earned himself a quiet reputation as somewhat of an underground poet, scoring their indie-rock arrangements with unique poignancy and eloquence. With that band’s demise, Teague has thrown himself into his long-time solo moniker, Single Twin, releasing a debut record that marks one of his finest hours.
I remember the first time I heard Deloris’ Marcus Teague mention Single Twin. I read it on his band’s blog, and despite obsessively collecting rare Deloris demos and live versions on mp3, there was something about Single Twin which stopped me from ever listening. In fact, I remember reading about it with scorn. Maybe it was some kind of inkling about the front-man’s side project which held me back, a sign of the oncoming demise of this quiet act from Melbourne who I had an unusual fondness for. Sometime last year, that sub-conscious premonition proved to be prophetic. Deloris – after resting in recording silence since 2006’s Ten Lives – broke up, and Teague fell back on Single Twin. I never saw them live.
As luck has it though, there’s something special to be gained from loss. Deloris are dead, that I can make my peace with; Teague’s muse lies within Single Twin, and it’s no coincidence that his first record is thematically a split identity. You don’t need to listen to the record to understand that, indeed, you barely need a glance at the cover to see where Teague is coming from; his moniker a dissociated label, his album title a confused identity and the paired skeletons a strip back to bare bones. Before you’ve even played the record, you’re prepared for some form of starkness, and when you do, you’re presented with the shrill whine of a cicada leading into the lazy finger-picked spine of Fish in New Leaves, as desolate a sound as Australia has to offer.
With Single Twin, the Deloris front-man is given the freedom to unplug and venture into something humbly sparse. There’s no need to involve the band, no requirement to fill in the spaces or build a wall of sound; on Marcus Teague, Teague embraces the emptiness. Moments like the howling keys on Get to Love You, the chatter on Came Home Dead or the ambience on Fish in New Leaves interjects through the background before being promptly shut off, fleetingly appearing like a stolen secret. It allows the focus to fall on his softly spoken poetry, crooning through imagined places, lost feelings and suggested philosophies. Goodnight reads like a bullet point advisory, messages to a former lover maybe, but often like a sub-conscious reflection on a younger self; “have big plans / think of them / and still be strong / when they’re gone.”
Like any great song, there are lines all over this record that reach out to hold you by the shoulder, the kind of lines that leave you so stuck on them that you’ve forgotten to keep track with the rest of the song – a trap. They stick with you and force you to go back and listen again, if not solely to find some context…and then that line comes back again and you’ve forgotten your intention. Wandering is a culprit, its final lines embodying one such hold; “A year ago today / I sat on this very ledge / 13 floors above a car park / sitting on the end of our bed / wandering,” as is almost the entirety of The Blow “She fell out the window / and to your surprise / she went careful and gentle / as if feather-light.”
Marcus Teague is a record of carefully tailored beauty. With the freedom of time (it was recorded over six years in Teague’s home,) Teague has allowed these songs to not only be pieced together as intended, but to grow into themselves with majesty and feeling. There’s unlikely to be a record released this year that has been so labored upon, each sound delicately and fittingly placed to allow the strengths of each track room for exposure. Distraction never comes from an absentminded bass line or over-eager kick-drum; it comes only when all the elements fall into place to leave you frozen in their headlights. This is a record that leaves you there many times over.
Marcus Teague by Single Twin is out now on Remote Control Records via Inertia.