Monday, November 3, 2008

Fantastic Magic - Witch Choir (Abandon Ship Records CD-R)

There's a lot of talk about New Weird America these days, and while i don't necessarily prescribe to such broad strokes of band lumping (I prefer much narrower ones, I guess... what's a music fan to do!?), the genre has come to imply a certain aesthetic (here I go again...) or at least approach that is experimental and interesting but still steeped in form and, to some extent, rock/blues traditions, even if those traditions are as loosely rendered as Sunburned's psychedelic romps or No Neck's folk improv twang approach.

Fantastic Magic falls somewhere closer to the Sunburned side of things, with a wild psychedelic approach and seemingly anything goes attitude. Still, the trio also incorporate a far prettier, song/vocal technique, using richly harmonized lyrics on top of ornate instrumentation including various horns alongside scraping electronic commotion. The result is a sound perhaps closer to a Joanna Newsom or Devendra Banhart or some other freak-folk contemporary.

The album breezes through its ten tracks in just over twenty-two minutes, moving between the opening pastoralism of "Fox Wedding," complete with indecipherable Animal Collective vocal musings and pan flutes, to the pseudo-Sun Ra blurt sessions of "Balloons," whose electronic keys and saxophone reveal the group's unexpected depth. Still, Fantastic Magic's strengths are in their compositions, which all manage to sound as loose as a fire side jam while still remaining intricate enough to cipher them off from the legions trying to bring their own sound to "out" folk stuff. "I've Covered the Halls, with Glitter and Awe" might represent their best construction, richly orchestrated quirkiness that has enough interesting sounds mixed into to keep it off kilter enough to suggest a kind of LSD sing along. "Etains Whirlwind" is a heady dose of noisy dimensions while "Moat Island" is bedroom pop, just guitar and voice in some sun-lit grove. The closing "Jam & Yima" (speaking of which, did you hear about Yma Sumac passing away yesterday... I thought I'd heard she was a goddess...) is a cute and mellow closer that doesn't delve too deeply into its own adorable nature that it can't get out.

The Abandon Ship disc is a repress and it's still available, though sold out from the band itself. For those into this kind of stuff, it's a real find, and far more compelling than so many of their less adventurous (and often more famous) counterparts. It's an honest and fun record that pushes its song structures towards new bounds without closing themselves off to exploration outside of that realm. A nice one indeed.

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