The Little Death, Vol. 1 is Matt Mark‘s debut album on New Amsterdam Records. It is an ambitious work that fuses bombastic electro-pop hooks, frenetically chopped break beats, hypnotic lyrics, and apocalyptic Christian imagery. Holding these disparate elements together is an unconventional narrative that follows two characters, Boy (Matt Marks) and Girl (Mellissa Hughes), on a journey through the world of Fundamentalist Evangelism, as they cope with repressed sexuality in a modern world. The sample-heavy work draws on musical references that echo the character’s sexual-religious confusion, including pop songs and gospel standards with evocative titles (“He Touched Me” and “When God Dips His Love In My Heart”). Marks took most of the sampled material from his own collection of 1970s gospel albums and classic hip-hop and soul recordings. Using a DIY approach, he produced the album using only a couple of microphones and a laptop running Ableton Live.
The album was described as “cheerily seductive” and the live theatrical performance at St. Mark’s Church a “consistently affecting evening of theater” by Steve Smith in the NY Times and “unabashedly boppy, baroquely multireferential, then suddenly sentimental” by Time Out New York theater critic Helen Shaw. Steve Smith also found Melissa Hughes’ presence “magnetic” and her rendition of “He Touched Me” to be “particularly riveting” and TheAwl.com found the audience at St. Mark’s Church to be “under her cyrpto-erotic-religious spell.” The Little Death, Vol. 1 was also one of Time Out NY’s Top Ten Classical albums of 2010 and “I Don’t Have Any Fun” was listed as one of Huffington Post’s Top Ten Alternative Art Songs of the Decade alongside works by Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros, and Joanna Newsom.