Nico - The Marble Index (1968), 8/10

Nico and John Cale created a wonderfully complex and gratifyingly eerie experience with Nico’s second studio album The Marble Index. Her goal of claiming artistic individuality and integrity is accomplished early and by the end of the recording is undeniable. Even the record's title was spawned from Wordsworth’s The Prelude, signaling a mature artist breaking free from the shackles of her past as a model, especially when contrasted with the preceding Chelsea Girl. The music largely consists of Nico’s vocals taking an independent lead against Cale’s sweeping yet abstract atmospheric arrangements. From the onset, “Prelude” poetically gestures towards the album’s deep hypnosis, fluidly leading us into “Lawns of Dawns” a melody that is delivered gracefully through Nico yet flirts with the alienating sounds surrounding her lyrics in a give-and-take sparring. The songwriting is exceptional and focused, when combined with these unsettling arrangements they give a sense of ominous grandeur that collides amicably with the already-established melodies. The endless chasm of sound and space that Nico continues to explore is already surprisingly affecting and powerful, particularly impressive for the timing of the record’s release. Not only that, but the album transcends any labels of its time, making its brand of thoughtful songwriting especially unique. The duo’s use of heroin during recording sessions is unsurprising, yet the results speak for themselves; the album separates itself from simple indulgence by venturing beyond the high into the depths of consequence. It is equally important for remaining there, wallowing in the distance and uncomfortably far-reaching intervals, but still proving wonderfully engaging through every experiment in sound because of Nico’s hypnotic delivery. The album exists as a wholly unique emotional experience and is therefore remarkably successful in its aims and timeless in its reach.