Paul Mark

Paul Mark
Mirage Cartography

Radiation Records

By Tony Del Rey
February 2012

I warn you. Guitarist Paul Mark’s new disc, Mirage Cartography, might leave blues honks picking their collective noses in boredom over the album’s atmospheric instrumental suites and multilayered acoustic noodlings. Not exactly barrelhouse entertainment. But where the rank and file may dismiss the album as so much audio room spray, the sharper thorns of the bunch will realize Paul Mark didn’t produce this record for the proletariat’s listening enjoyment. Mirage Cartography caters to the bijou set - musical highbrows who sip white wine at cocktail parties while discussing the significance of sub-dominant seventh chords in popular American song. By targeting this exclusive segment of the record-buying public, Mark has ensured that the disc will garner poor sales, but rich praise for his work.

Whether he’s a marketing genius or an artistic fool, it’s apparent from the outset that Paul Mark is a fine guitar player. Referencing his bio and accompanying press release for Mirage Cartography, we learn that ambient music isn’t the man’s forte – he’s a rocker and bluesman who fronts his own band called, Paul Mark and the Van Dorens. For this project, however, he’s kept the Van Dorens at home, setting out on his own to create something else entirely.

Much of the material recalls Jimmy Page’s moody acoustic-based instrumentals that found their way onto various Led Zeppelin albums. The recorded city street noise (presumably New York City, which is depicted in lavish detail on the album’s fold gate) that weaves in and out of the album’s 13 song suites, works in tandem with a set of recurring melodic themes in an attempt to stitch things together conceptually.

The device works only marginally well, however. Mirage Cartographydoesn’t feel like a concept album. Nor is it a blues album in the strict sense, although a handful of pieces convey as much – with titles like, “Bug Jar,” “Rail Yard” and “Mud River Blues” – and proffer the occasional string-bend and some bluesy banjo rolls.

All in all, the album amounts to an interesting curio for discerning palates, for which a polite round of applause is in order.

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