As if creating a 19-song album of skewed pop in the shape of 2009’s Body-Piano-Machine wasn’t enough, MaJiKer returns with this collection of new songs, remixes and live tracks called Bonuses-Performances-Mixes.
Body-Piano-Machine itself is a peculiar mix of lo-fi pop songs, rudimentary beatboxing, and cut and paste collages that frustrates as much as it delights. For example Strings And Wires, about MaJiKer’s Yamaha PSS-270 keyboard yearning to be a piano, contains a healthy dose of humour, while melancholic balladry such as Flesh And Bone tips the scales dramatically in the other direction. This jarring mix of emotional states across an entire album begs the question as to whether MaJiKer is entirely serious about what he does.
The new songs of Bonuses… don’t really clarify the situation. The Trinity Of BPM possesses a quaintly funky electro bassline as the Birmingham-born Paris resident sings about the pleasures of bringing together the Body, the Piano and the Machine. He elevates the tools of his trade to almost spiritual levels, switching his vocals between a choir boy’s hushed praise and something that sounds a little like Jermaine Clement getting his freak on as he does so.
Further similarities to the Flight Of The Conchords musical whimsy can be found in Music Affair which tells of MaJiKer’s guilt about considering purchasing a new keyboard and how that would be cheating on his current Yamaha. Eminently catchy and crafted it may be, but it’s also faintly ridiculous on repeated listens.
The slow creeping pop of The Shore however is about as perfect as music can get, while the beautiful melodies of The Woods are perfectly judged. Hammers & Hearts, like The Woods, speaks of the organic relationship between instrumentation and the body in more emotional terms. It’s a beautiful antidote to the quirky fun of Music Affair.
The live tracks work well, proving that MaJiKer, who produced Camille‘s most recent two albums Le Fil and Music Hole, is not merely a studio-based wizard. The mournful tones of Flesh And Bone in particular flourish in the live setting. The quirky sheen of the album version vanishes, leaving behind a stark ballad that, come the beatbox breakdown, is almost skeletal in its construction. The percussive stabbing piano hints at both John Carpenter‘s Halloween score and Derek And Clive‘s Bo Duddley, neatly summing up MaJiKer’s seemingly constant conflict between the humorous and the deadly serious.
The Hook, with its elegant piano melodies, possesses a more emotional edge than its studio counterpart. In fact the live setting seems to benefit MaJiKer’s music significantly. Perhaps this is partly because there’s no studio trickery involved. It goes without saying that the flawless beatboxing throughout the live performance is also impressive, purely by the expert nature of its execution.
But the mixes that close out the album are frankly a hit and miss affair. The Wagner remix of Strings & Wires relocates the song to a Eurocheese rave-up, but strips out any charm the original had. Wall Of Sound however becomes more muscular and funky in Melnyk‘s hands, and would easily cram any dancefloor. Tongue, meanwhile, becomes a threatening, throbbing sexual advance that oozes a pervy sexuality akin to Prince in a gimp suit. It is perhaps a slight improvement on the dot-matrix-printer-gets-busy wibble of the original.
Not all of Bonuses… is vital admittedly, but almost all of it is interesting, and some of it is pop genius. Which really is a bonus.