Confusion Is My Name


"James Marlon Magas has been reborn -- or perhaps, more accurately, born for the first time in his most undiluted image. Confusion Is My Name is his first album under his full given name, and the first album in over a decade to position him as a proper frontman at the microphone against the backdrop of his idiosyncratic electronic productions. It arrives as a statement of purpose, a detonation to vaporize the debris and clear out new territory. The album lays out his most diverse menu of styles and experiments to date, veering from technoid noise-pop animated by his maniacal vocal performances, to hallucinogenic psych rock with analog synths repurposed into bludgeoning guitar riffs, to something that resembles lounge music as performed by a delirious crooner on the eve of the world's destruction. Meticulously sculpted over the better part of five years, Confusion Is My Name takes up the reins of multiple eras of James Marlon Magas's output and conglomerates them into some rendition of the ultra-Magas. Just as his participation in the band Couch cast him as a swaggering vocalist howling out unhinged tirades, the Magas of today returns to a version of that role with an equal measure of demoniac belting and brain-melted post-crooning. Magas recasts his analog synths into the role of the guitar in some moments, even achieving a sense of back and forth 'stumming' with their oscillating wails -- not to be confused with the actual overdriven guitar contributions of French noise maven Electronicat on 'Lay My Money.' Other guests appear amidst the Confusion. Former Blues Control member Lea Cho pours out a rapid-fire keyboard solo on the climax of 'Feathers in the Clouds,' hitting like a boogie-woogie pianist on speed atop Magas's squelching synths. New Orleans freak music luminaries Miss Pussycat and Quintron contribute vocals, flute, and percussion to album opener 'Irma, Irma.' Chicago experimental/free-jazz veterans Fred Lonberg-Holm and Julie Pomerleau join in on the delicate album-closer 'Kiss on the Cheek' with their plaintive cello and violin layers brushing against Magas's Rhodes. For all its dense frameworks of production, James Marlon Magas's vocal performances occupy our full attention throughout Confusion Is My Name. He takes chances on the mic. He embraces some skewed rapping on 'Watch,' spitting bars alongside director/actress Asia Argento, with whom Magas collaborated as a composer on the 2014 film Misunderstood. Argento's verse finds her incanting a whispered malediction in her native Italian. Magas embraces the role of the quasi-doom metal vocalist on 'Stone,' all while his drum programming pummels us with snares and kicks more in the vein of electro. Magas inhabits the personas that each track calls for with unbridled confidence. This time around, he stands before you as a rock star, some type of demented oracle, and lays it all out on the table. He's not asking you to follow him if you don't want to, but he knows you can't stay here. Nowhere is safe, yet at least you could choose to spend the last of your energy in the company of James Marlon Magas as he serenades you into oblivion."