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The Low Culture Podcast: Nico’s The Marble Index

In the first subscriber-only Low Culture podcast of 2023, John and Luke go deep into the bleak midwinter of Nico’s masterpiece, The Marble Index.

Nico’s The Marble Index occupies an odd place in her discography. Those just encountering her solo work for the first time could be forgiven for imagining that after her 1967, breezy folk pop debut, Chelsea Girl, Nico would have recorded The End before moving onto the more song-based Desertshore and then finally making her grand avant-garde statement The Marble Index. But no, this unique album which sounds like "Judy Collins with frostbite", was recorded and released just 13 months after her debut. 

For years the LP was dismissed as too grim and difficult a listen – not least by the record’s lead producer, who couldn’t get through more than 30 minutes of it when sequencing the tracks – but more recently it has become regarded as something of a lost classic. We ask the perennial question: what makes music difficult, and is The Marble Index really as hard to listen to as received wisdom would have you believe. The atmosphere of this record, John and Luke will admit, is complex and elusive, its affect often shifting depending on the listener’s frame of mind, although there is one thing that never shifts: a heaviness that sits somewhere close in spiritual terms, to Coil or the opiated doom of Earth. 

Also in this first Low Culture podcast of 2023 we discuss recent reading and advise you to cope with the trials of winter with a condensation hoover.

Thanks to Alannah Chance for producing this podcast and to all who have subscribed to keep us alive in these bleak times for online culture journalism. To listen to this podcast, and to help us continue, become a tQ subscriber and get a host of perks including free music and bonus editorial, including a monthly essay and newsletter. Sign up to be a tQ subscriber via the Steady checkout below or by visiting our page on the platform here.

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