archiv: george

archive review originally posted on the losing today web site c. 2003

(Pickled Egg)

One of those albums that gives you the sensation that you’re intruding on something private. ‘The Magic Lantern’ is the debut long player from Manchester based duo George following their two acclaimed singles for Bad Jazz and Earworm, an album so intimate and yet so delicately deceiving that you’ll think the word elegant was made for it.

It’s amazing that a record can contrive to be so powerful and yet almost invisible, ‘The Magic Lantern’ is a crushingly emotional tour de force, so fragile, so quiet and still that you are left hanging for the next exquisite melodic drop to fall. What George have created with these home recordings is perhaps best described as maternal, something non intrusive that drifts in ghost like and that teeters on spiritual, aside the frequent religious references throughout and not counting ‘Bandstand’ which itself sounds like some kind of celestial drone like ceremonial orchestration, there prevails on several tracks a graceful hymnal quality which is curiously aided by a sense of being locked in a classic 40’s movie, to say the whole presentation is elegiac is to underplay it beauty. Reference wise a little more difficult though the usual suspects Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, This Mortal Coil and Damon and Naomi hover ominously within the grooves.

One of several brief interludes, ‘Little Song’ opens with the gospel-esque vocals of Suzy Mangion aided by the faintest of piano accompaniments. ‘Sacramento’ shuffles and teases with a vibe of the old country, almost as if the richness of Kentucky is in your very own living room transported there via Manchester. ‘Alpine’ visits territories more commonly treaded by Iceland’s Mum; a simplistic keyboard hum is bathed by the dreamy lullaby-esque melodies of a glockenspiel.

‘Alone in the country heart’ is racked with heartbreaking images, the John Barry like signatures shimmer through the hanging chords that cascade to court Mangion’s melancholic vocals, the shuffling beat reminiscent of a travelling train endows a haunting facet to the proceedings, proving to be more than a match for the ethereal textures found roaming Goldfrapp’s glorious debut. By the time the string section arrives to work its sophisticated grandeur you’ve already succumbed to the realisation that you’ll soon be a trembling wreck.

The albums centrepiece ‘The track through the woods’ flits with a romantic coolness, its serenading features almost akin to the pagan ritualism of the temptation scene from the ‘Wicker Man’, equally spellbinding and powerfully seductive. The hymnal tendencies of the album are brought to the fore with the stately ‘The song the lonely heart remembers’ while ‘Whirligig’ is blessed with a most macabre sounding carnival like Wurlitzer. Ending with the frail but glorious ‘C Song’ as enchanting a track as you’ll hear all year. An unassuming classic.

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