Michael Marquart is one of those musicians who has carved out an incredibly rich and productive career, almost out of nowhere. From working briefly with A Flock of Seagulls in the ‘80s as a drummer, he’s turned his hand to producing, playing other instruments and forming A Bad Think. This band is very much his project, and he is the only mainstay. Other musicians may come and go for guest slots, but Marquart is the beating heart of the band, providing everything from drums to guitar to vocals, as well as the production.
Historically, Michael Marquart has used A Bad Think as a sort of blank canvas, an excuse to collaborate with a number of different musicians such as Paul Bryan, Greg Leisz and Durga McBroom. The Savior feels like something of a departure from this, a rich and soulful exploration of the self, with an incredible soundstage. The Savior features guest vocals from Jazz Mills, who has worked with artists like Stevie Wonder and Arcade Fire. Her tender voice lends yet another layer to the incredible soundscape of this tour-de-force album.
Rarely has just listening to an album given such insight on a musician. Marquart clearly sees A Bad Think as his chance to layer, perfect and polish in production. The songs are crafted carefully with incredible detail, and listening in surround sound gives space for the lush layers to float in and out. “Immersive” truly is the word to describe an album which is weaved in such detail.
The album opens with a distorted, crushed drum pattern and almost prog-guitar sounds as “Down Low” sets a somber, melancholy yet beautiful tone which is drawn on through the whole album.
We first hear a significant contribution from Mills in “Going West” and “If That’s What Love Means,” and more of a folk influence creeps in with both her vocals, along with the instrumentation carefully hand-picked by Marquart. Heartfelt lyrics are delivered in hard-hitting fashion.
More electronic sounds and distorted guitar soundscapes wail through “Now You Know” before it explodes into a straight-forward, catchy and upbeat chorus. The somber tones take hold through “It's Good to Be Young” as Pink Floyd-style guitars give an accent with a ‘70s feel.
Big choruses continue to be a theme and “The King’s Crown” and “Hallelujah” build to triumphant chord progressions, rich backing vocals and swells which die down again for the verses.
“Feel Me” hits hard, with synth soundscapes, crunchy guitars and driving drums creating a single-worthy tour de force which should have garnered more attention than the limited plays it has on streaming sites. The melodic bridge and hard-hitting “be careful what you wish for” vocals bring both the song, and the album, to a stunning climax.
The album’s tone slows, and as it draws to a close, pianos and orchestral sounds add to the melancholic nature and beauty of the album. Tracks like “Safe and Sound” still keep in with the big chorus feel, but the feel is darker towards the album’s conclusion.
The surround sound hits again as the album closes with “C'est La Vie.” Piano emerges from a digital soundscape, and builds with violins which seem to crescendo in the room with you. A fitting end to an album with a clear theme, tone and craft to it, and a true contender for recognition with the Grammy for Best Immersive Audio Album.