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Thursday, 8 March 2012

Record Review - Magic Castles

Magic Castles
A Records CD & LP

If you make shoegaze head music then getting one of the genre’s leading lights to endorse you is just the sort of career break that can make a band. It’s happened to Minneapolis five-piece Magic Castles with their third, self-titled long-player. Anton Newcombe (of the Brian Jonestown Massacre) signed them to his A Records label last year, and you can immediately hear why. The dreamy vocals of mid-to-late period Velvet Underground, the narcotic haze associated with BJM (and before them Spacemen 3), plus there’s also plenty of Elevator’s spikiness to both the electric guitars and gentle folk thrum to the acoustic ones when they appear.

Jason Edmonds and associates are lyrically concerned with trolls, golden birds, and other such whimsical nonsense/joy (delete as you feel appropriate). All the songs feel stretched-out, which suits them sometimes as the song qualities often only reveal themselves later on. The majestic ‘Ballad of The Golden Bird’ is eight minutes of crystal beauty, all subtle melody invoking misty hills. Yet on the cascading, watery ‘Now I’m A Little Cloud’ they demonstrate a wonderful idea poorly executed - it starts beautifully but soon hits a dead end. I think they could have done with a producer to rein in their excesses. Either way radio-friendly pop music this is not.

Were you to file Magic Castles next to albums by Tame Impala, The Paperhead, The Black Angels, or Black Mountain I think it would suffer by comparison. Diehard shoegazers will clasp this album to their bosoms, though I think everyone else will just shrug.

Phil Istine

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