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Trust An Amateur

by Marker Starling

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Silver Morn 02:25
Fly Away 02:52
Ancestor 02:23
Lost Rooms 05:27


“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it,” the American novelist Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “is to love whoever is around to be loved.” It’s a sentiment shared by the latest album from Toronto troubadour Chris A Cummings, whose eighth full length as Marker Starling captures in crystalline pop a time in his life full of birth, death, life, loss, endings and renewal. Reeling from the death of a close friend and collaborator, two years after the birth of his first child, Trust An Amateur asks questions about mortality, searching for their answers on tracks led by gorgeous drifts of airy Wurlitzer keyboard calm. The result is an album that’s minimalist in sound, but profound in message: an expert songwriter pushing his poetry to a brave new existential brink.

Vonnegut actually has a close connection to the album.“Around 2005, I was challenged to write 15 minutes of original music inspired by his book Slapstick,” recalls Cummings. “It was written in a flurry of dark inspiration following the death of his sister.” Two songs on Trust An Amateur – ‘Stony Flame’ and the dreamy ‘Mass Market Paperback’ – began life as part of that project, which he credits as a “major jumping off point” for this release. “At the same time, we had a small child in the house and I was spending a lot of time alone with her, knowing that this would also be looked back on as a happy and magical time, one that would go by too fast.”

This contrast propels Trust An Amateur, which was written in sessions starting at 4am each morning in his Toronto home, an 100-year-old building nestled between 1970s-builds in the city’s remote inner suburb. “Over the course of many weeks, I slung together the various tracks, working in a piecemeal fashion, making notes for improvement, executing the previous day’s notes the next morning, and so on,” he recalls. After a brief break to record two other albums – covers album I’m Willing with Laetitia Sadier collaborator Emmanuel Mario in Paris, and 2017 baroque pop daydream Anchors and Ampersands – the songs were ready to take to LowSwing studio in Berlin, where Cummings and producer Guy Sternberg brought them to life across four intense days. “Here was a
roomful of lovingly curated and cared-for vintage equipment, and Guy had such a passionate yet easy-going demeanor,” remembers Cummings.“The perfect combination for what I envisioned as a warmly austere solo album.”

From ‘Ancestor’, a piano feather-float full of arresting imagery (“under the hammering clack of the clammering crowds, we weave”), to the magical “Mistaken I.D”, packed with real-life reportage from Cummings’ native Toronto – “it’s like a little news bulletin observed from a bicycle rider going across town,” he explains – the album’s a suite-like fantasia, adventuring deep into a dark, beautiful lounge-pop cloud. ‘Fly Away’ might be its most emotionally charged moment: written in 1998, the song was a collaboration with actor and singer Dennis Frey with whom Cummings sparked an immediate chemistry. His sudden death in December 2012 cast a shadow this album couldn’t outrun. “I felt I had to process and express my feelings about him. There was a long mourning period, not only for his life, which I was very sad and angry about, but also for lost hope and promise.”

The album takes its name from a phrase that’s percolated in Cummings’ imagination for many years. “I remember once reading an interview with a recording artist who decided to make a record with ‘no professionals’. That idea always stuck on my mind,” he says. “Once I heard the refrain in my head, it immediately seemed like a compelling idea that demanded attention.” In many ways it’s the perfect title, given the album’s grand themes. No one has answers to life’s grand questions: there are no experts, making amateurs of all of us. On Trust An Amateur, Marker Starling discovers the only solution is to love and be loved.


released November 30, 2018


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Marker Starling Toronto, Ontario


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