Piano Magic - Opencast Heart EP - CD
A Note To Listeners From Piano Magic:
I should input that this is, hands down, thee most purely electronic record Piano Magic have ever made - a brash stylistic pendulum swing from the most recent album, The Troubled Sleep of Piano Magic.
It evokes not only cruel English Winters but also the ghost of a great lost treasure of English Literature, WNP Barbellion (his early 20th century diary was entitled, The Journal of a Disappointed Man). It's a record with a warm heart in a glacial season. It was recorded at Piano Magic's Murder Mile Studio in the redbrick, rundown backstreets of East London and features the vocal contributions of Angele David-Guillou, oft chanteuse with the band, though soon to be more regarded for her own exquisite project, Klima.
From it's conception as a bedroom studio hobby in Summer 1996, Piano Magic's trajectory has never been textbook. Random at best.
Originally, a self-confessed "revolving door" operation - musicians arriving, contributing and leaving as they pleased - a cataloge of varied singles, EPs and two albums were harvested by 1998. This conveyor-belt membership also resulted in a plethora of sonic stylings, from smallbeat Kraftwerkian "Mechano-Pop" on debut album, Popular Mechanics (1997) to the breathless, ethereal, multi-layered melancholy of Low Birth Weight (1998).
Only when founder member, Glen Johnson met Spanish drummer, Miguel Marin, in 1999 did Piano Magic resemble anything like a conventional format group. Smooth-talked into playing a Dutch festival "which actually turned out quite well," they decided to play anywhere they were wanted and began to build something of a cult following, particularly on the European Continent. Spain particularly warmed to their then pleasing coupling of baroque and Joy Division - the band played superb shows at the Benicassim and BAM music festivals, promoting the post-modernist baroque sound of "Artists' Rifles" (1999).
Ironically, the band have never infiltrated the hearts of the British music press - out of time, unfashionable and kinda weird looking, it's best not to stay home much. Tours of Germany, Holland, Italy, Belgium, France, Spain peppered the next few years. Marin left after an ill-fated stint with 4AD for which the group delivered their most critically contentious work, Writers Without Homes and the soundtrack to Spanish director, Bigas Luna's Son De Mar movie. Philosophical about the experience, the band regrouped, drafted in French musicians, Jerome Tcherneyan and Franck Alba and recorded their (so far) opus maximus, The Troubled Sleep of Piano Magic, for tiny Spanish independent, Green Ufos. This new album perfectly encapsulates the live sound of the group - delicate vocals, glistening guitars, insistent drums, anthemic synth washes.
A new record, Saint Marie EP followed in June and featured collaborations with lost 60s folk heroine, Vashti Bunyan, Alan Sparhawk from Low and Ben Ayres from Cornershop. A cast who only serve the notion further that Piano Magic are now, more than ever, a band of some celestial importance.
To date, Piano Magic has harboured over 60 sonic orphans with nothing better to do, recorded 5 ''proper'' albums, a double CD retrospective and many, many singles. They've outlived several of the labels they've recorded for and show no signs of stopping. At this point in time (August 2004), Piano Magic is Glen Johnson, Franck Alba, Jerome Tcherneyan, Alasdair Steer and Cedric Pin.
1. Echoes On Ice
2. The Journal of a Disappointed Man
3. I Didn't Get Where I Am Today
4. This Heart Machinery
"...lovely, unsettling record whose stealthy, witching-hour atmospherics are ultimately utterly overwhelming." **** ~ Uncut
"Their music here is English through and through, a blend of barbed, revealing lyricism redolent of Morrissey's sadder musings and calm, considered arrangements drawing on the quieter end of British indie rock." *** ~ The Independent
"... utterly spellbinding collection of bittersweet and savagely beautiful songs." ~ Comes With A Smile
"Inhabiting a parallel universe where This Mortal Coil and The Durutti Column set the agenda." **** ~ Mojo
“Deciding whether Piano Magic are sick or inspired is impossible - the two go hand in clammy hand so often that it seems stupid to ask. Yes, I can imagine a review where this would be called exploitative, pretentious, perverse - but at least two of those words are compliments under another name.” ~ Melody Maker
“Few other releases occupy this fertile middle ground between ambience and experimentation, between pop and abstraction, and none I know of succeeds with such effortless finesse. Highly recommended.” ~ The Wire - regarding Piano Magic's album Popular Mechanics
“Retro-futurists ahoy!” ~ NME
"With the whir of keyboards, clicking percussion and the most brittle of voices, Piano Magic create disarmingly pretty and oddly evocative records.” ~ Alternative Press