Piano Magic, the project of British guitarist Glen Johnson and
a revolving cast of collaborators,
debuted with the EP Wrong French (iChe, 1996), a
soundtrack for a Rachael Leigh performance that contained
Wrong French, a naive female recitation over floating organ drones
and tiny electronic turbulences,
Glen Johnson's claustrophobic instrumental of industrial music General Electric With Fairy Lights (that would remain one of their experimental peaks).
The eight-minute Wintersport/ Cross-Country (iChe, 1997),
with a detached childish voice
repeating a nursery rhyme over a non-existent
arrangement, and with a surreal coda of natural and found sounds and
electronic loops that was basically a mini-concerto of musique concrete
(devised by Glen Johnson, Paul Tornbohm and Dominic Chennell),
backed with Martin Cooper's surrealistic chamber sonata of Magnetic North,
as well as Johnson's instrumental For Engineers A (Wurlitzer Jukebox, 1997),
an atonal carillon propelled by a strong rhythmic base,
were characterized by
dreamy electronic sounds performed on cheap keyboards and fragile melodies
held together by simple structures, something halfway between the
"bedroom pop" of
Young Marble Giants
Brian Eno's futuristic-pop vignettes.
Popular Mechanics (Che, 1997), recorded with three American expatriates,
illustrated Glen Johnson's aesthetic principles across a broad range of
After the frantic drum'n'bass instrumental overture Metal Coffee
(Ezra Feinberg on drums),
the ghostly electronic noise of Everything Works Beautifully and
the synthesized miniature (0.53),
Johnson laid down the melodramatic drone of Amongst Russian Lathes and Metal Curls, animated only by a few words by a woman and a minimalist piano pattern,
and, after another silly exercise in musique concrete, Birth of an Object,
Johnson turned to Terry Riley's chromatic,
repetitive and polymelodic minimalism with Revolving Moth Cage.
The nine-minute To Be Swished/Dream of the Ups Driver was collated together a serene Brian Eno-esque lullaby, a bit of static noise and finally a couple of minutes of syncopated digital drums.
After yet another abstract instrumental interlude, Freckled Robot,
and a more substantial instrumental vignette, Soft Magnets,
mixing different kinds of electronic sounds,
the closer, You've Lost Your Footing in This World, was another charming
Brian Eno-esque ambient atmosphere.
This was certainly and educational album, experimenting (elegantly) with
different formats and styles, from dissonance to ambience to samples,
but hardly cohesive or meaningful for the listener.
The song format staged a comeback with the
EP The Fun Of The Century (Piao, 1998), that contained
vocalist Jen Adam's and Johnson's sweet lullaby The Fun Of The Century
as well as Johnson's and Martin Cooper's cubistic vignette Industrial Cutie and especially
I Am The Sub-Librarian, a gentle breeze of an elegy engineered by the same couple of multi-instrumentalists (for droning cello and bells) with Caroline Potter on ethreal vocals.
The all-instrumental single Music For Annahbird (Bad Jazz, 1998), entirely composed ad performed by Johnson alone but rather disappointing
(the ten-minute Me At 19, the futuristic vignette
Music For Annahbird and the static buzz of Music For Wasps do
not amount to much),
the electronic folk-rock of Amongst The Books An Angel (Acetone, 1998),
backed with the psychedelic noise of C'est Un Mauvais Presage Lorsque Ton Aureole A Tombe,
the two suites of the EP A Trick of The Sea (Darla, 1998)
and the tedious ballad
There's No Need For Us To Be Alone (Rocket Girl, 1999), backed with the
seven-minute Neil Young-ian meditation
The Canadian Brought Us Snow (performed by a full-fledged rock band),
sounded more like distractions once compared
with the material of the second album,
Low Birth Weight (Rocket Girl, 1999).
More distractions led to the
EP Mort Aux Vaches (Staalplaat, 1999), before the third album,
Artists Rifles (Rocket Girl, 2000), surfaced.
Here Johnson has crafted a baroque work out of his "lo-fi" beginnings, assimilating
Caroline Potter's voice in a manner reminiscent of Mike Oldfield's suites and
forfeiting some of the earlier eccentricities in favor of a
There's No Need For Us To Be Alone is the single,
followed by I Came To Your Party (Acuarela, 2001).
The mini-album Son De Mar (4AD, 2001) contains a (calm and relaxed)
Almost Yesterday (1997) and the double-CD
Seasonally Affective: 1996-2000 (Rocket Girl, 2001) are career retrospectives (the latter collects all their EPs and singles of those years, but only
the first disc is worth the money).
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Carlo Maramotti)
I Piano magic sono il progetto del chitarrista inglese Glen Johnson, che impiega una schiera
di collaboratori variabile, per le sue varie e numerose registrazioni.
Il primo EP,Wrong French (iChe, 1996), una colonna sonora per lo spoken-word di Rachel Leigh,
il singolo Wintersport(iChe, 1997) un incrocio tra Neu e This Mortal Coil, e l'interamente
strumentale For Engineers (Wurlitzer Jukebox, 1997),erano caratterizzati da suoni elettronici
sognanti suonati su tastiere minimali, e fragili armonie tenute assieme da semplici strutture,una via
di mezzo tra il "pop da cameretta" degli Young Marble Giants e le vignette elettroniche di Brian Eno.
Popular Mechanics (iChe, 1997), registrato con tre fuoriusciti americani, si basa principalmente sui singoli.
L'EPThe Fun Of The Century (Piao, 1998), che contiene anche I Am The Sub-Librarian (probabilmente il capolavoro di Johnson),segna il ritorno al formato canzone.
Music for Annahbird/Me at 19/Music for Wasps (Bad Jazz, 1998) le due suite dell'EPA Trick of The Sea (Darla, 1998) andavano nella direzione opposta, ma sembravano pi— delle distrazioni se rapportate con il materiale
del secondo album,Low Birth Weight (Rocket Girl, 1999).Ancora una volta i singoli sono l'asse portante.
Ulteriori distrazioni portano all'EPMort Aux Vaches (Staalplaat, 1999), prima che il terzo album,
Artsts rifles (Rocket Girl, 2000), veda la luce. Johnson ha creato una rielaborazione barocca dei suoi inizi
"lo-fi",assimilando la voce di Caroline Potter in una maniera che ricorda le suite di Mike Oldfield e perdendo alcune
delle eccentricit… iniziali in favore di una sorta di stupore simile a quello dei Felt.
There's Non Need For Us to be Alone(Rocket Girl, 2000), Š il singolo.