Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Magic Castles (A Records)

Listing The Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3 and Galaxie 500 as influences can go either way for a band, as all three bands are incredibly influential and held with major regard; the listener is immediately set up for delight or disappointment.

Fortunately for fans of well-crafted, well-written and performed psychedelia, Minneapolis' Magic Castles delight and don't disappoint, and it's pressed up on high quality 180 gram vinyl to boot housed in a lovely gatefold cover.

The magnificent opener "Death Dreams" sets the tone from a swirling jangly bed capped with clear vocals and excellent harmonies. Fortunately, the mix doesn't bury the vocals as many bands within the genre are inclined to do. The ending guitar freakout manages to be freaky enough but soothing and groovy ala "What Goes On". The second track, "Now I'm A Little Cloud" certainly wears a strong Galaxie 500 influence on its sleeve, yet while Galaxe has not aged well for me (sorry), this track showcases once again the above-average song craft of the group highlighted by some vivid imagery in the lyrics. I really dig how this track gets a bit more out-of-tune sounding as it drifts along, yet still remains so pleasantly whimsical.

A standout track is "Imaginary Friends", which takes the opening chord progression from the Velvets "Femme Fatale" and somehow turns it into something unique thru the creative melody and unexpected chord progression change. Beautiful Sunday morning music, suited for coming down or waking up.

Spread out among four sides for maximum sonic impact, side two begins with the gorgeous "The Ballad Of The Golden Bird" which sets the mood with soothing feedback, organ and more of those pretty vocals that are reminiscent of the dark, bad trip side of Smile. Once the band kicks in just under the two minute mark we're treated with a lovely, unforgettable guitar break followed by more incredibly trippy lyrical imagery on top of a melody that reduces me to a puddle. An extraordinary track, one which is the focal point of the entire record. As "Ballad" drifts off into the ozone in a psychedelic haze, the song cross fades into "All My Prayers", which follows the drone all the way into pure drug-free tripping. Here we are, five songs into the album and each song breathes its own personality and each is also a fully realized vision. This is an album in the truest sense of the word. The man can say the album is dead, but as long as visionaries such as Magic Castles walk the earth the album lives on, and I thank them for that.

On to side three and through sequencing that is downright genius, the group lifts off again with "Songs Of The Forest", which motors along with the most gentle (though mind melting) groove this side of Easter Everywhere.

I'm hoping by this point in my rambling you have stopped reading and simply bought a copy of this masterpiece for your very own. I could write about the rest, but I've already written too many words. This record is essential. A big thanks to Magic Castles and Anton Newcombe (the A behind A records) for this remarkable release.

-Derek See

listen to "Songs Of The Forest"

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