Music

Magic Wands: Aloha Moon

Fear not! These Magic Wands have no association with Muggles or David Copperfield.


Magic Wands

Aloha Moon

Label: Bright Antenna
US Release Date: 2012-04-24
UK Release Date: 2012-04-23
Artist Website
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iTunes

If there was one thing the graduating class of Rock 'N' Roll High 2008-09 had in spades it was tough lookin' guy/gal duos. Crystal Castles, Kap Bambino, Ting Tings, Sleigh Bells, Blood Red Shoes, erm...She & Him. Each lookin' to steal your hearts, annoy the neighbours, burn bridges and look hella-cool whilst doing it. Alas one of the most promising, Nashville's Magic Wands, proved too kool for skool. They flipped the bird to the Man, lit cigarettes with their diplomas and tore off into the night under a cloud of smoke. Their sole parting gift -- 2009's Magic, Love & Dreams EP -- left spinning on the tarmac like a hubcap diamondstar halo and they were gone Daddio. "Sayonara, outtahere"....until now.

Well honey if that's not a flying pig! The lipstick 'n' switchblade duo of Chris 'N' Dexy Valentine are back! Back! BACK! After a thousand nights shacked up in the desert chewing peyote, making out in teepees and taming a giant stuffed lion called Captain Sylvester, Aloha Moon is Le Wands du Magique's semi-mythical debut album. One cautionary aside first. If you've been sitting there twisting your Rolex, marking days on your cell wall waiting for this baby to drop you may be slightly miffed at the 'slim pickings' of fresh material. Of Aloha's ten tracks only five are new blood, the rest familiar friends, albeit having received a hearty feed and a hot bath. But if you're "Magic who?" hop in, buckle up and let's see what this puppy can do.

The sunny, Honolulu baby title track welcomes us onto Magic Island and we're graced with grass skirts, sea breezes, cocktails 'n' dreams. A shot of serotonin sunshine, out-of-body giddiness and bear hugs from angels. "Running with white horses on the beach / We're in a dream" coos Dexy, possibly whilst fondling a harp. This ain't no day for dozing though as a call to "Sex me up!" reveals "Teenage Love", the sassy, seductive spark that first drove a starstruck Chris across America searching for his partner-in-crime. The nodding dog bass, Tom Tom Club "Genius of Love" grooves and cool-as-Blondie semi-rapp'd, semi-sigh'd vocal, now even more deliciously poptastic. Romantic but simmerin' with devilry it struts like a Minx circling a town called 'FILTHY'. "Come over now so we can f-...forget about everything". Me-ow!

Moon picks up the pace with the 4/4 driving disco-pop of "Kaleidoscope Hearts". A child of Blondie's "Atomic" it's beefier and tougher than in its former incarnation. "Follow me down to the astral ocean / Kissing in the stars like a psychedelic kaleidoscope of hearts". It's the hypnotic, daring lure into the shadows like being hypnotically glamour'd by a True Blood vamp. The pride of the new batch "Crystals" follows. Half Fleetwood Mac, half the Cure, it's custom built for midnight road trips, moonshine hipflasks and cheese 'n' mescaline sandwiches. A spiralling Kim Gordon bassline, a hip-hop backbeat and the thrill of "The power to make you a believer". It's swagger smouldering behind Raybans.

"I can't cool down / My desire." Yup, hot at the half, Aloha Moon is firin' on all cylinders. Early single "Warrior" has been upgraded with block rockin' tribal drums and feels like a new ride. Dexy's slurred, whispery voodoo poisons like some bad seed in your ear telling ya to go dark, "You're a warrior / I'm on fire". So mischievously infectious, one hit and you'll be putting on the warpaint and wrestling wild animals in your best loincloth. At this point resistance is futile and the blistering axe riff that signals their calling card "Black Magic" feels like a victory lap around the wagons. Blessed with a stuttering-bubblegum chorus, go-go dancer beats and motorcycle gang attitude, it'd undoubtedly garner two thumbs up and a certificate of coolness from Arthur Fonzerelli. "All night out on the run....and black magic!". Aloha Moon thus far deemed "Sch-mokin'".

Darn shame then there's a slight wobble two-thirds in. Only slight, but noticeable. Betwixt all this levitational coolness two newies garner only polite applause. The twinkly-starred, floaty spaceman called "Treasure" is so prosaic you'll feel a bit exposed and daft having spent your Aloha time thus far dancing in your pants like a loon. "Wolves" is weaker still. Dexy sounds like she's phoning it in (literally) whilst Chris struggles to make his guitar howl (literally). A Cyborg voice declares "No more wolves" as if unexpectedly caught short, prompting Dexy to declare "No more waiting" and try Walmarts instead (possibly). Both feel akin to glimpsing the poorly concealed wires moving the "spooky ghost".

Sensibly then, the Wands decide to follow-up these two gaffs with their finest trick, "Kiss Me Dead". In Magic terms, it's the Prestige. So dreamily intoxicating and with an ache spelt "L-U-V" it's the sort of magnetic marvel worth leaving home for and never, ever, lookin' back. "High on your eyes / A million stars melt in the dark". A rollercoaster rush in slo-mo, arms skyward, let yourself go. When Dexy drawls "The look on your face...is totally cool" it is officially "Totally Cool". A song to be tattooed on your heart and textbook 'perfect pop' -- sexy, romantic, funny, timeless, smart and you can dance to it. This is why some folk have been holding out for Aloha Moon. So damn fine I'll even forgive 'em for trimming that whipcrackin' single "OOOH!" that illuminated the original. Recent single and getaway car "Space" waves "A hui hou" with dramatic fervour but you'll likely still be tripping on "Kiss'" afterglow.

"Those who don't believe in magic will never find it" believed Roald Dahl. Whilst Aloha Moon isn't quite the immaculate conception, its "Crystal visions, astral hearts and stars" still conjure enough supernatural, spellbinding spectacle to charm the most ardent of sceptics. It may've taken the Wands a while to casually pull this one from their wizard's sleeves but Aloha is one Magic act worth catching.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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