Mars, 78

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
The art of noise.

Darkness itself isn't scary. What's scary is darkness combined with some kind of malevolent uncertainty — groping through hot, steamy, pungent darkness toward something you know means you harm. By that yardstick, the scariest record I know is 78+ a collection of sessions by the amazing late-'70s New York no wave band Mars, which never got around to making a proper album. The four members of Mars were basically visual artists, and their approach to playing music was to smear sounds across tape like paint and dirt across an abstract artist's canvas. Their first single, "3-E," has an actual riff; everything after it just sounds undead. It's prickly-hot noise, punched and screamed and mumbled, and what's scary is that they know how to repeat it. "Puerto Rican Ghost," in particular, is a minute-long wave of bubbling ectoplasm, an accident that morphs into a conspiracy. They've killed the lights, they're on their own turf, and they're coming to get you.