Despite existing for sixteen years and their new album Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet being the eleventh from their creative minds, Piano Magic had eluded our attention to this point, something which maybe can be said of the UK as a whole to date, the band finding more appreciation and acknowledgement around Europe than in their homeland over the years. Research left only mystery going into the album as to what would grace the ears, their previous releases seemingly an evolving mix of dark electronic shadows, surreal pop, and most lately guitar heavy intensity. This first introduction for us suggests the band is returning to earlier sounds and aural themes, its heart a dark and mysterious weave of compulsive yet chilled thoughts and breath. It is at times quite mesmeric and captivating and in others a testing but wholly intriguing adventure of emotion and sound.
Released on Second Language Music, Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet sees founder member Glen Johnson alongside Jerome Tcherneyan, Angele David Guillou, Franck Alba and Alasdair Steer, with also additional guests throughout the release. The album is an evocative collection of songs which reflects and explores those dark corners of the human condition and life, a series of nihilistic ruminations to provoke thought and emotion. It is a deeply layered release emotively and aurally which ensures every second is drenched in intrigue and impactful resonance. Some tracks work better than others for personal tastes but there is never a moment when full willing immersion is not in place for the magnetic creativity.
The album opens with the brief Matin, a heated ambience of violin and vocal harmony to incite the senses to attention and lay a base soundscape to stir from. It leads into the wonderful Judas, a song which easily is the best on offer and the inciter of strong imagery and thought. Its dark sinister pulsing is a glorious intimidator to leave one slightly wary as the immense vocal mix and harmonies take flight within the Middle Eastern skies and breathtaking sonic landscape. Everything is perfect about the song, guitars and rhythms a teasing yet guiding companion into the warmth maelstrom of emotional energy and lurking shadows. The escalating energy at the climax is subtle yet obvious to rile up the edges of the mesmeric embrace ensuring the song is a challenging companion with dark secrets.
The following track The Slightest Of Threads saunters within sonic dust thrown up by its sweeping electronic heavy steps behind a transfixing bass and classy guitar enticement. It is a melodramatic joy which seals the deal with the hypnotic moody cello sounds of Katie English and emotive vocals. Every stretch of its emotive arms brings another delight be it the keys or guitars entrancing the senses whilst the tempest of energies and caustic sounds leading into the final kiss of the song is dramatic and stunning.
The impressive start continues through the glorious minimalistic Sing Something, a song which feels like a doomy Young Marble Giants with the voice of Angèle David-Guillou captivating every atom of air, and the contagious prowling electro pop brilliance of Chemical (20 mgs) where the band walk in the footprints of Reproduction era Human League. With the title track completing the immense experience so far the album leaves one glowing under the diversity and ever evolving presence of the album, its startlingly invention and imagination in sound and construction hypnotic.
Weirdly though the remaining six tracks whilst not doing the opposite certainly did not have the same deep effect. It is impossible to offer any major reasons why other than personal taste but something in them or us lost the connection. The songs are still very easy to spend time with and are marked by their craft and skilled composition but just do not ignite any more sparks in ear or beyond. The Way We Treat The Animals with its provoking strings and keys does bring the senses to the boil though arguably out stays its presence a little. The arrangement of the track is magnificent but there is nothing to re-ignite the fires from earlier despite growing as a deeper and more welcome guest in thought and heart the more time given to it.
The sizzling and brittle ambience of Jar of Echoes again engages the mind as well as the ear with its haunting abrasive breath whilst the dazzling guitar and keyboard brew of instrumental Higher Definition is a shard of sonic sunshine within the album, both furthering the strong appeal of the album if still adrift of that first triumphant half.
Overall Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet is impressive and very enjoyable; an impactful delight all should make acquaintance with to find their personal highlights. Piano Magic ensures there will be some for all.
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