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Piano Magic Popular Mechanics Review

Album. Released November 1997.  

BBC Review

Reissue of the classic first album from English radiophonic soundscapers Piano Magic.

Colin Buttimer 2003

Popular Mechanics begins deceptively with "Metal Coffee"'s screechily cartoonish menagerie clamouring for attention. Delicious crunches, scritches and grindings ensue. A pseudo-electric piano patiently measures out the time until a singer intones words like an electro chanteuse (literally) resurrected from the grave. The music falls away to be succeeded by birdsong, woodpigeons, sheep, ticking clocks, flocks of starlings, marshland birdlife. The ticking persists; it keeps hurrying you forward from scene to scene like Alice's White Rabbit. A dream logic is at play; it pulls you along, helpless to resist.

"Everything Works Beautifully". The sound of creaking, cranking, groaning - something like the sound of a windmill's ancient wooden machinery. Pans knock together. Water burbles. The sonic transmogrifies into the visual.

An arc of electricity joins noisily between two begrimed nodes. A foreboding hum accompanies a girlish voice; "I dream to dance on the factory floor to his lead piano amongst Russian lathes and metal curls". Where Boards of Canada are blurred, lambent, half obscured by blinding sunlight, Piano Magic are rough-hewn, grained, immediate but still mysterious. Simultaneously tactile and beyond reach. Earthy, grounded but still in danger of shocking you with unexpected voltage.

"Birth Of An Object" sounds out a manual poetry of machinic stanzas, marking the persistence of the industrial age in forgotten shopfloors still grinding out indistinct objects, a sort of industrial threnody. "Revolving Moth Cage" is perhaps that newborn object making its own song, given a life in time (four minutes and five seconds - no more, no less).

Suggesting Bruno Schulz's sun-drenched, dark-shadowed Street of Crocodiles: at once precisely delineated, beautiful and lost. Kept alive only in the faulty circuits of memory, the signal fades, the message lost in static. Chthonic rumbles marry together distinct, unalike elements to commence new, hybrid stories.

Listen to this as you fall asleep...I can almost see your dreams.

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