Durham, North Carolina-based producer GRRL is back with the follow-up to their 2019 debut LP, Pay Attention, in the form of a new album, Marathon. With a runtime clocking just shy of two hours, the sprawling epic sees GRRL giving us a thorough exploration of the techno genre spanning everything from caustic breakbeats dredged up from the depths of Marinas Trench to sweaty fast-paced warehouse rattling belters.
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Marathon has its fair share of unabashed bangers like the furious chirps of "Firewall" or the Jimmy Edgar-esque stomper "Overload," but we also get to see GRRL explore a softer side. The lush and dreamy "Saturn" is a clear standout on the album with nods to trance and '90s/early-2000s progressive house. It's a swoon-worthy moment and also one of the few moments that GRRL mercifully lets us catch our breath — because true to its name, Marathon is anything but a sprint to the finish.
A quick scroll through GRRL's Twitter or Instagram will turn up a constantly growing and evolving virtual moodboard that covers everything from featuring vintage video game ads to reviewing hot sneaker colorways. So it felt only fitting for PAPER to ask GRRL to break down some of the biggest inspirations behind Marathon.
There was a lot of music that inspired this record. The work of artists like Dopplereffekt, Jeff Mills, Luke Slater, John Carpenter, Claude Young, Kraftwerk, Suzanne Ciani, James Ruskin, LFO, Ken Ishii, T++, 808 State, Shinichi Atobe and Aphex Twin, as well as labels like Warp Records, Sähkö recordings, Djax-Up-Beats, Peacefrog, Metroplex and more. Literally I can't name everything because I love them all and the list would be the length of a novel, so here's five records.
Basic Channel - BCD II
Basic Channel are one of my favorite music duos of all time. Their label Chain Reaction is one of my favorite labels ever. I think their work is endlessly inspiring. The use of space and noise in their productions is still unparalleled in my opinion. BCD-II is my favorite encapsulation of their whole essence. It's the kind record that makes you feel like you've stepped into a separate dimension.
It would've taken me forever to write about all these films individually, so I'm grouping them all together under the "Underwater / Sci-Fi Horror" banner. Movies like Alien, Leviathan, The Thing, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss and Event Horizon, etc. They all do such a good job at creating a really visceral, claustrophobic and industrial atmosphere. I just love the idea of being so far away from any kind of recognizable civilization or assistance, reaching farther than you should, pushing things too far, being surrounded by completely inhospitable environmental conditions, and also having something trying to kill you. It's pleasant to me.
I'm absolutely obsessed with sneakers. There are a handful that, in a weird, abstract way really informed the sound of this project. The Asics x Kiko Kostadinov Gel-Delva 1, Adidas x Raf Simons Ozweego 2, Asics x Affix Gel-Kinsei OG, The Nike Air Max Tailwind V, The Reebok x Vainl Archive Daytona DMX, and the Nike Shox TL. I could name many more, but there's something about the design, use of color and choice of material in all of these models that is extremely inspiring to me.
Roger Dean's Artwork for Psynosis
I have such massive respect for the work Psygnosis was doing the late-'80's and '90s. I adore the presentation of their games and what they were able to squeeze out of pretty strict hardware confines. A massive part of that was the cover artwork done by Roger Dean. There's something so grand and evocative about the artwork. It's all so gorgeous.
Old Digital Watches
I really, really love the design of old digital watches like the Seiko TV Watch, the Seiko Voice Note M516, theCasio AE-20W Twin Graph Watch and theSinclair Black Watch. I love how some of these designs manage to be both futuristic and very representative of the era they were created in at the same time.
These video games inspire me for a lot of the same reasons those movies do. Games like System Shock 2, Observation, Marathon, Alien Isolation, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey and Doom 64 are all excellent examples of building a strong atmosphere, and because they're interactive they are able to explore some of these concepts and ideas and spaces better than a movie could.
'60s/'70s Science Fiction Movie Posters
I cannot attest to the quality of these movies because I haven't seen most of them, but I love looking at them. I love the campiness.
Photos courtesy of GRRL
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