With Marnie Stern’s signature sound long honed to a tee, Chronicles of Marnia sees the voyage of this born shredder take a turn for the less frenetic. Though still rooted in jaw-dropping fretwork, the intensity has shifted down a gear, and the relative lightness is flattering.
A personnel change plays a part in this refreshment, with Zach Hill vacating the kit to focus squarely on Death Grips after three albums by Stern’s side. His replacement is no technical slouch himself (to put it mildly), but Kid Millions’ comparatively reserved contributions suit the album’s clarity, with toned-down polyrhythms affording Stern’s songwriting more space to breathe. Indeed, tracks like Nothing Is Easy are Stern’s poppiest yet - though that doesn’t mean she’s lost her hard edge, as pacey opener Year of the Glad testifies. The cleaner aesthetic may shed a fan or two, but Stern’s set to replace them with a whole heap more. [Chris Buckle]