Marcus Amaker published 41 albums on his Bandcamp, starting with a 1989 recording entitled Big Butt | Ruta Smith file photo

Charleston poet Marcus Amaker says he is a bit of a music junkie, which is why in addition to his books of poetry, he’s created dozens of electronic music albums. 

“I bought a drum machine in 2005 — in the stone ages — with the intention of just doing instrumental stuff,” Amaker told the City Paper. “Then I realized just how much music brings out the musicality of my words — a deeper meaning for my words that wasn’t happening just on paper. So if I’m not going to get you on paper, I’ll get you in your ear.”

His two most recent EPs released in April, Kept and Let Go Of and Electropoems, demonstrate the poet’s fearless artistic experimentation. 

“The biggest factor in my art right now is being authentic — not taking myself seriously with it, getting back to the reason why I first started making music when I was 10 and it was just cool to have a tape of my voice. It was a moment in time that I was capturing on tape, and it was a lot more fun,” he said.

Amaker dropped the EP Kept and Let Go Of under the moniker Tape Loop. The heavily sampled easy listening experience is the result of his dive into chillhop, a subgenre of down tempo music. 

“Praise Warm Energy,” the first track on the EP, is filled with supple beats and plucking keys layered into bedroom pop, which is an excellent lead into the rest of the album’s instrumental landscape. 

“I’m cool with things being authentically me,” Amaker said, “which is messy and strange and fun, and hip and depressing all at the same time. So the music is a complete reflection of who I am.”

He plays drum machines and keys in the beat-heavy EP Electropoems. He said he drew inspiration from the rock band Low and how the music could feel uncomfortable at times to the listener. “You’re like, ‘What is going on?’” he said. “I was really empowered by how wild they are with their sound.”

The suspenseful theme orchestrated in the song “The Creepy Crawlies” is drawn out with vocal distortions and macabre word choices as Amaker zeros in on a gritty stream of consciousness: “Thou shall not kill / I guess / unless it is a mosquito on your baby’s forehead.” The word choice and repetitive sounds are fun to listen to, yet the song itself is a pretty dark social commentary, displaying how Amaker can package conflicting concepts with adeptness. 

The two vastly different EPs are follow-ups to Muscle Memory, the collaborative record he released in November last year that features acclaimed Ranky Tanky drummer Quentin E. Baxter. 

Baxter drums throughout the moody and meditative tracks that comprise Muscle Memory, his brooding patterns enlivened by Amaker’s fierce delivery. The spoken word moves like a wood rudder through a lolling sea of percussive energy as sounds flirt with each other like they do in jazz songs. 

The first song, “The United States of Anxiety,” opens with a vengeance: “Welcome to the United States of addiction / In this country your smartphone holds more meaningful moments than your memory / Here social media is social justice / and history is a hashtag.”

These days, Amaker said the most effective way he keeps his creative storerooms full is by napping, which takes quite a feat of engineering as a “full-time dad to a powerful toddler.”

“Self care is fantastic,” he said. When he gives himself the space to rest, the art sounds more genuine to him, he said. And it’s that focus on unfeigned expression that brings him back and forth between writing poetry, performing spoken word and crafting songs.

“Charleston could use more experimental music. The weirder, the better, for me. There’s less rules to making art.”


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Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.