When Piano Magic signed to 4AD, it seemed so right since they exhibit those hallmarks of mystery, darkness, art and poetry which their roster was indelibly linked with throughout the 1980’s. However, Glen Johnson’s crew have always led a nomadic existence where labels are concerned and they now find themselves on Second Language Music.
The early indications are the group have maintained their core values and infact ‘Judas’ is like Piano Magic in a microcosm. All the best elements are there: Glen Johnson’s deadpan, haunting vocals, minimal electronica and that unmistakable air of historical times create a song that is a study in detached perfection. The beautiful tones of Angele David-Guilou may be used sparingly but when she takes on the lead on ‘Sing Something’ and ‘A Secret Never Told’ she provides an exquisite counterpoint to Johnson’s stern performances.
Yet even when Johnson seems to be sleepwalking through the frigid title track or a darkly experimental ‘Chemical’, he delivers his strongest display of emotion for ‘(The Way We Treat) The Animals’ and it feels as if he is crying out for the creatures who have had pain inflicted on them. Then, for different reasons, the lonely but exquisitely captured despair of ‘You Don’t Need Me To Tell You’ sends a deep shiver down the spine.
Piano Magic always have been and always will be a stately and elegant proposition and – on those terms – this may be their strongest offering yet. If there is a flaw here, it is that the album as a whole is restricted by its slow pace and it’s hard not to occasionally yearn for those times when the band combine urgency and thrills with their immaculately carved creations. Minor gripe aside, though, music lovers have definitely not finished with them yet.
Dead Can Dance