Sunday, 3 June 2012

Piano Magic - Ovations

 Piano Magic is a musical collective formed in the summer of 1996 by Glen Johnson, Dominic Chennell, and Dick Rance in London, England. 
  Their sound has been described as ambient pop, post-rock, indietronica, coldwave, dark wave and ghostrock.
   While the most recent releases have seen them operating with a traditional band format, they originally started their career with the intention to base their recordings around their small nucleus and whoever else would like to contribute. 
   Glen Johnson is the only remaining band member from the original trio.
  Ovations is their 10th album and features guest appearances by Brendan Perry and Peter Ulrich of Dead Can Dance. 
  Perry sings on The Nightmare Goes On and You Never Loved This City, whilst Ulrich adds percussion and hammered dulcimer to March Of The Atheists, A Fond Farewell and La Cobardía de los Toreros. This album finds Piano Magic at their most confident, melodic and unabashed, merging early 80’s coldwave electronics with Eastern European acoustic instrumentation. 

  The opening prowl of “The Nightmare Goes On” is a key indicator of the overall trajectory of Ovations. With commanding guest lead vocals from Dead Can Dance’s Brendan Perry, intoning Johnson’s funereal prose over washes of synths, exotic strings and almost African rhythms, the long-player feels like a much more successful attempt to capture the true ‘80s 4AD spirit that the ensemble strained a little hard to reach on 2002’s collaborator-heavy Writers Without Homes.  With Johnson back to the singing fore, the thicker rhythmic mélange hits with even greater force on the ensuing Moroccan-vibed “March Of The Atheists” and the skittering electro-beats-driven “On Edge”. 
   The more minimalist, Details Not Recorded-like, “A Fond Farewell” brings a serene momentary breathing space before “The Blue Hour” and “Recovery Position” crash in with towering waves of Robin Guthrie guitars put through Modern English amplifiers.

  Before proceedings slide too close to unadulterated ‘80s noire retrophilia, the wordless “La Cobardía De Los Toreros” chimes in with an Eastern European baroque eloquence that might not sound out of place on Beirut’s Gulag Orkestar. Following this refreshing interlude, a second Perry-sung track, the elegantly-orchestrated “You Never Loved This City”, glides in with unapologetically lovelorn Tindersticks-style grace and gravitas.  The somewhat automatic New Order-referencing of “The Faint Horizon” consequently feels a little anaemic in its wake. 
  However, the closing “Exit” more than makes up for it, with squelchy Kraftwerk electronics and a Vini Reilly guitar figure enveloping an elegiac duet between Johnson and regular golden-toned Piano Magic chanteuse, Angèle David Guillou.

  Like its predecessor, the impressive Ovations provides no linear entry-point into the labyrinthine world of Piano Magic. Yet, it undoubtedly finds Glen Johnson and co. regaining a stronger sense of collective purpose; reinforcing the belief that the group still has plenty of reasons and room to exist alongside its members extra-curricular roaming, for a little while longer at least. 
Longtime fans will love it unreservedly.

  A fantastic album, Highly recommended!

1. The Nightmare Goes On
2. March of the Atheists
3. On Edge
4. A Fond Farewell
5. The Blue Hour
6. Recovery Position
7. La Cobardia De Los Toreros
8. You Never Loved This City
9. The Faint Horizon
10. Exit

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