Sunday, May 20, 2012
Magic Trick - The Glad Birth of Love on Empty Cellar Records
The thing about Tim Cohen, and this goes for any number of his side projects, is just how plain likeable it is musically. Take anything he’s done either on his numerous solo albums or his work with The Fresh and Onlys and he’s consistently able to pull of a huge array of ‘60s influenced psych, with bubbling pop leanings without feeling like he’s repeating himself or pulling directly from the genre. He’s been drawing what is essentially a straight line from ‘60s psych through to contemporary sounding garage, virtually channelling this period effortlessly every time. The Glad Book of Love is no exception, but here under the Magic Trick moniker, the tracks take the time to get majestic, expanding on the verse/chorus pop psych into two massive tracks per side, exploring the longer form of dreamy pop.
Tim doesn’t need much to get to that dense, mythical place and “Cherished One” is mostly full of quiet instrumentation from an acoustic and is impressively minimal. Lyrically, he’s exploring a conceptual place with an incredibly complex narrative in some completely unfamiliar fantasy world like Fantastic Planet a creepy, slightly unsettling place full of gardens and queens, delivered in a loose airy harmony and that romanticised ‘70s Sunday afternoon feel. It’s been years of absorbing those records, he’s done all the work for you. Ghosts sing choruses with the warbles of saws. There’s even a heavy Sitar improv clearly placing this in that psych landscape, as if the length wasn’t doing it. “Daylight Moon” has a ringing chorus’d out guitar and a choir of backup singers la la la-ing around that watery guitar completely roaming. Eventually the whole thing catches up with itself, waking out of it’s hazy slumber to coalesce into a big measured rock breakdown. For as much as these parts spread out for a minute they’re never jammed out into oblivion and quickly get reined back in line for the strict psych-out.
You get the sense he’s really enjoying the ability to experiment in all of these directions, committing every direction to vinyl like this... he’s certainly thriving on it with no end to his output.
But you can’t discount the contributions from San Francisco contemporaries here, John Dwyer from the Oh Sees on flute (!), Grace Cooper from the Sandwitches on ‘angelic’ vocal duties and Diego Gonzalez working with all of the non traditional instrumentation on the Oud and Tamboura, adding up to new layers and giving the sound more of a freedom to meander and explore a particular groove.
Magic Trick is building dense, towering structures of instrumentation and vocals along with an underlying melodies that function as an anchoring foundation... thankfully never veering into that experimental free form spaghetti to decipher. In fact to hold this together in the delicate balance of catchy pop and drone repetition for 14 minutes is an achievement. I want to imagine Tim and Co. have this all mapped out Brian Wilson style on great blackboards and archaic scrawling pictograms of changes...to it’s credit it’s never improvisational but moving forward in it’s own secret narrative across both sides. A long journey that Magic Trick have destined you take on full length vinyl.
This heavy cardstock thick sleeve is the perfect case for the massive gram vinyl inside and glossy painting foldout insert with lyrics and a gentleman performing an act of magic... pulling a rabbit out of a hat. On Empty Cellar Records.