After twenty years of exploration, Glen Johnson (one of the tirade that first initiated the project and its lasting member) is closing the lid on and drawing a line under everything Piano Magic, and as the glissotronic swirls clear on the opening track, he’s straight in there voicing his opinion on the matter to lush orchestrated folds.The music hugs its precious cargo well, stiletto(ed) in diverting details. The plush sonics percussively shimmering around its burning stakes, accompanied by the occasional sliver of choral echo, this strange strum of detuned harp flinting the undergrowth. A composition that rifles through the psyche beautifully, like a moth in a jam jar of glassy distortions. That tiptoe piano grabbing at the heart of the matter in rococo tangles, ten minutes of a track that slips through your fingers way too early.
“Landlines”‘s shimmery contours pick up the tempo as does (the highly danceable) “Exile” in a lavish dash of crushed velvet and mirror balled spin, before “Let Me Introduce You” flicks the indie dollar into the moonlit night once again, poetically beaking that fountain of sadness I’ve eagerly been lapping up since 1997. The cello-curling cats and powwow patter affirming a certain Artists’ Rifles verve on “Living For Other People”, Johnson’s voice removed from the chordic shackles bemoaning a diaristic flow of images — suns like scissors through canvas — days fading like weathered Polaroids. The suave sensuality of “Attention To Life” cherub-chasing its knife-tipped treasures. The upholstery pendulum(ing) a glass-half-empty awaiting fresh fulfilment.Johnson’s words are gorgeous, they always have been, imbued with a Jeanette Winterson floatiness that pinches at your senses like ill-fitting shoes. I wish Caroline, Raechel or Angèle were still parading this repository though, that femme fatale lick on the ears gave a much-needed contrast, even if Glen’s voice is crooning the details spectacularly. A vox that treats hope like the tattered yellowings of chip paper flapping limply in the prevailing wind. He trickles with disappointment, the ointment of life (some might say) a fuel source that has served the discography well over the years, furnishing that eclectic music box with beleaguered phantoms, love’s skeletons cupboard-rattling the lyrical flow.
Although I’m a fervid lover of the more musically adventurous, I’m also a sucker for the melancholic, and Piano Magic constantly hit the introspective spot with that all-important Angela Carter glint of mystery to slant and enchant. Really hoping the vinyl has the words inscribed somewhere, it’s an important ingredient to getting under the skin, picking the bones of this final offering, looking beyond its sonic congenialities towards the autographical signatures that prompted him to finally throw in the towel.Who’d have thought it would end here, surrounded by harmony and tuneful slitherings, a world away from the kooky curiosity cabinet that was Popular Mechanics and the eerie improprieties of Wrong French. We can only guess were the future may lead.