On Out at Sea, Magnetic Island is a band that deals in opposites, but the players balance the poles in their sound almost seamlessly. Part of this stems from the collection’s assembly, as these digital recordings were printed to tape. The combination of the clarity of digital with the analog raggedness of tape comes out in these five tracks. Songs like the cinematic opener “End in Bender” and the jangling, yet languid “Let It Lie” contain warm beds of guitar and lush, cymbal-heavy percussion.There’s a hard edge on the outskirts of these songs, a distant buzzsawing that hints at Sonic Youth as much as the songs on the whole imply gentler expansions. The vocals can be equally two-sided, sometimes honeyed and soothing, other times crackling with a breathy urge. The four new songs here—“Summer Phase” gets two versions on the tape release—take up a solid amount of space in under twenty minutes, and give us a glimpse of a big sound from a new band that both reminds us of that “college rock” we heard about twenty years ago and shows us a fresh angle on the ever-expansive, malleable, current sound of indie rock. Like I said, it’s always one thing and the other with this band.
// Notes from the Road
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