Chris and Dexy Valentine became a band long-distance. Somehow apocrypha already exists on how they met (what a fascinating modern age we live in). But there was a documented strange and varied snail-mail exchange that included a so-called “magic wand,” the exact nature of which we shouldn’t speculate on. Ultimately Chris and Dexy called themselves Magic Wands and continued their cuteness on tawny, luxurious collaborative tracks like “Teenage Love,” released last year on Valentine’s Day. I think I speak for all of us when I say: Aw.
Magic Love & Dreams, a proper EP, emerged this June but the computerwebs were keen on Magic Wands’ tissuey dreampop way before that. Their track “Warrior” went through editions, attendant videos, and finally remixes. (One of said remixes,by British band the xx, was basically a cover and has the dirtiest drums on any track this year.) “Warrior” isn’t on Magic Love & Dreams (except in the UK or as a bonus download on iTunes) and it’s unfortunate because it’s their best track by kind of a lot.
“Black Magic,” the EP’s putative title track, intros with a blend of carefully fiddled guitar chords and a spectral vocal overlay. A gust of feedback appears like a cloud the size of a man’s hand, if you know your Old Testament; the rest of the song is like a lo-fi smudgepot. Which is to say it doesn’t really burn, it just sits there and smokes.
“Starships” is a botched synth exercise. Precious minutes are wasted finding the right shade of shimmer before poorly mixed drumming kills things altogether. Some of the more unfortunate Depeche Mode casualties like Iris and DollsHead would relate to this in nothing flat. But what it recalls more than anything is Garbage, uppercase, when that band first began to lose itself.
“Teenage Love” is much better. A drum machine with a nice chop to it, a Dexy vocal suggestive of Alison Mosshart, and a lilt straight from the bong. This was the song, in a ruddier early form that got Chris’ attention. No wonder. It’s compact, breezy summer pop. The lyrics aren’t really worth repeating. There’s a soda machine and lots of blue.
“Kiss Me Dead” ends the EP with a sort of big-church drama. There’s a guitar that sounds almost like a saxophone and more references to stars, dreams, and another damn soda machine. Magic Wands are big on cosmology, which is a nice way of saying this is pretty good herb music. Bands like Best Coast get big blog love for this stuff. I’m not saying it’s more justified in their case, but Magic Wands aren’t exactly stretching. Some more seasoning, maybe, and they’ll be good for more than just a cloudy room.
Brightblack Morning Light – Brightblack Morning Light
Sad Day For Puppets – Unknown Colors
Garbage – beautifulgarbage