Ben Marc x Glass Effect

“Often classified as a jazz artist, though obviously when you listen there’s a whole lot more going on in his music than that. On Glass Effect he keeps pushing the boundaries, he just keeps pushing out and stretching.” - NPR

"swirling arrangements—which synthesize jazz, hip-hop, neoclassical, and electronic" - PITCHFORK

“The music swirls and floats past like a multi-coloured cloud” - STEREOGUM  

"It’s one part Four Tet to Freddie Hubbard, the intersection where Bonobo meets Blue Note, reflective of the contemporary UK jazz scene’s penchant for modern club sounds as well as traditional jazz performance.” - TREBLE    

Producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Marc, a key figure of London’s cutting edge jazz scene, has just released his debut full length, Glass Effect, via Innovative Leisure. A follow up to last September’s acclaimed Breathe Suite EP, the album is an assured and accomplished 13-track realization of a singular vision that unifies a multitudinous profusion of influences (from free-jazz, to broken beat, to hip hop and beyond) into a sublime whole, underscoring his quest for a distinctive sound: lambent and low-key, yet dizzyingly intricate. The album is rounded out by stunning LP artwork and packaging by accomplished designer Vlad Sepetov (Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Brittany Howard). As a counterpoint to the album’s meticulously layered production, the last couple of weeks Marc has shared a pair of raucous and soulful live studio videos by his crack six-piece band performing album highlights “Mustard” and “First Batch,” underscoring just how potent his songwriting is.

It’s a rare talent that can link Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke, Afrofuturists Sun Ra Arkestra, and grime legend Dizzee Rascal, but Marc has long blurred musical worlds and criss-crossed boundaries. On double and electric bass, he flits between jazz, classical, and electronic music, whether playing on Greenwood’s award-winning score for the film The Master or touring with Astatke for over 10 years, as well as working with the likes of Matthew Herbert, Charles Mingus, China Moses, and Soweto Kinch – and even joining Tina Turner onstage.

Marc, the alias of Neil Charles, has quite the musical pedigree. While studying classical double bass at the prestigious Trinity College of Music in London, Marc had a chance meeting with Gary Crosby, linchpin of Tomorrow’s Warriors (the crucial London jazz educators that connect the UK new wave luminaries, from Nubya Garcia to Moses Boyd) after which the possibility of jazz shone like a beacon. This began a game-changing journey that led him to play with the jazz group Empirical and then to form the free-jazz trio Zed-U, alongside Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming) and drummer Tom Skinner (The Smile), whose collaborations ignited a new passion in Marc for electronic music. 

One of the reasons that he started writing Glass Effect, says Marc, was going to nightclubs in Ibiza and experiencing the heady sun-dappled euphoria of a summery dancefloor, as well as the beat-driven production of artists like Four Tet, Bonobo, Machinedrum, DJ Shadow, and Madlib. But the album also wears its London influence prominently - on “Jawbone,” there are echoes of broken beat, the genre that came out of house and 2step in the early-2000s, while the Mike Skinner of the new UK scene, Joshua Idehen, intones over the brass-led “Dark Clouds” about the resilience of being a Black man in the city. Ultimately, Glass Effect is an uplifting record. “Keep Moving,” a track Marc wrote in Japan in a hotel room at 4am after a show with Jose James, and which again features Attica Blues singer Midnight Roba on stunning vocals, feels like it’s beckoning a bright future over daintily dancing flute. “It’s hopeful,” says Marc of the album. “We all need as much of that as we can get.”