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Marnie Stern

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Guitar-whiz Marnie Stern brings her complicated riffs to the  Grog Shop on Thursday.
  • Guitar-whiz Marnie Stern brings her complicated riffs to the Grog Shop on Thursday.
"Patterns of a Diamond Ceiling," off Marnie Stern's debut, provides a cool metaphor for the guitar whiz's music. Backed by bassist John-Reed Thompson and drummer Zach Hill of Hella, In Advance of the Broken Arm sees Stern slice complicated math-rock riffs into tiny shards that resemble a diamond ceiling shooting light in a million directions.

My first reaction was pure amazement: How did she create the shapes of these songs? None of them are built according to traditional rock architecture. Then I attuned my ears to Stern's micromanaged attack. This eventually revealed -- beneath all those raging guitars -- a fondness for groove.

On "This American Life," Stern impersonates a flagpole getting hit by lightning while Hill lays down a swamp-metal beat, which in turn inspires the bandleader to reach into her bag of tricks and pull out some nasty Sabbath sludge. On "Letters From Rimbaud," she counters the needling guitars with a cheerleader chant perfect for a Fergie record.

In Advance of the Broken Arm is the sound of science and fun.

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