Following the idyllic soundtrack ‘Son de Mar’, the first track of the new album from Piano Magic starts with a familiarly low-key, delicate soundscape. However just as you’re drifting off, there’s a wonderful explosion of percussion and drums – courtesy of Jerome Tcherneyan and Miguel Marin respectively, two of the regulars of this fascinating and innovative group of musicians. Glen Johnson and Alasdair Steer make up the quartet, the former adding voice and guitars to the mix, the latter, bass.
‘Writers Without Homes’ is a hugely diverse album, partly because many friends and acquaintances have been pressed into service. There is limpid piano on three tracks from Simon Raymonde (ex-Cocteau Twins and now head of the Bella Union label) and voice from Paul Anderson of Tram on ‘Already Ghosts’, a hypnotic, edgy track which begins with some rather odd and unnecessary speech in (possibly) Spanish, but develops into one of the most addictive tracks of the album.
John Grant of The Czars sings on ‘The Season is Long’, the most immediately accessible song – beautiful, melodic and totally laid back, Grant sounding like a cross between Neil Halstead and Richard Hawley. There are also vocals from Suzy Mangion of George, Caroline Potter, Charlotte Marionneau and 60s folk starlet Vashti Bunyan, coaxed out of retirement for her first recording in nearly 30 years, ‘Crown of the Lost’.
Her voice is ethereal, so delicate it’s hardly there, with a blissful piano accompaniment and gentle percussion. Guitarist Robert Johnstone, from Life Without Buildings plays on ‘It’s the Same Dream that Lasts all Night’, a charming track that’s all too short at just under a minute long.
There’s no doubt that Piano Magic push at the boundaries of contemporary music, and most of the results are a delight. There are a couple of tracks here that are simply irritating, in particular ‘Dutch Housing’, which got on my nerves like a dripping tap. But there is much here to enjoy and although there are almost as many different styles as artists on this recording, the overall effect is cohesive, intriguing and ultimately very rewarding.