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The Church - Magician Among The Spirits CD (album) cover


The Church


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3.47 | 25 ratings

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3 stars [Tenth in a series] Re "Magician Among the Spirits," many Church fans have asked, "What happened?" This refers to the fact that this album, while not exactly a step backwards, certainly seems remarkably incongruous given their last two albums. Most obvious is the minimal use of the types of textured atmospheres that the band had mastered, and used to phenomenal effect on their two previous albums; the sound here is far more "stripped down," though not entirely devoid of atmosphere. My guess is that all of this had something to do with the feud between the band and its label, in which the label claimed that the band still owed them an album - a charge the band refuted. If so, it may be that the band simply wanted to get an album out quickly (to get out of their contract), and therefore didn't spend the time necessary to make it "great." (In fact, given that no copyright dates are given for the songs, it may well be that the band used some songs from earlier sessions.) That said, there is still lots of good, sometimes great, music here. / In "Welcome," Kilbey provides a smile-inducing rhyming list of celebrities from all walks of life, underpinned by a simple arrangement with a subtle texture. "Comedown" is a light rocker that sounds like it might have come from the "Heyday," "Starfish" or "Gold Afternoon Fix" sessions. "Ritz" calls to mind "Fly Home" (from "Sometime Anywhere") in that it goes from softer, almost dreamy violin-laced sections to more aggressive chorus sections, and includes a mildly hypnotic instrumental middle section. "Grandiose" is an "Atom Heart Mother"-ish instrumental with heavily textured guitars and atmosphere, and a chorus singing slightly dissonant vocals. "Ladyboy" sounds like it's from the "Starfish" sessions - a light rocker with minimalist guitar and textured atmosphere. "It Could Be Anyone" starts with a neat "horror film" organ figure, quickly giving way to an extended, truly paranoia-inducing Crimso-Floydian arrangement of simple drums, drone guitar, simple keyboard figure, and textured voice and atmosphere (toward the end they even "channel" Gregor Lygeti, who wrote the bizarre choral vocal that emanates from the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey). "The Further Adventures of The Time Being" is a strange tale supported by a very simple arrangement, with a nicely handled end section full of sound and texture. "Romany Caravan" is another wonderful Church instrumental, this one using a quasi-Basque/Gypsy rhythm, acoustic and electric guitars, and violin. "Magician Among the Spirits," the title track, is one of the band's most haunting, hypnotic extended compositions (and among its most-requested live). Sounding like a cross between Traffic and The Grateful Dead, it does bear a strange resemblance to the quieter section of one of the latter's acid-induced "space jams" - though as filtered through The Church's unique sensibilities. "Afterimage" is a mildly hypnotic Eno-esque instrumental using only echo-reverb piano, acoustic guitar, and subtle string synth. / Although it clearly does not measure up to the magnificence of the two previous albums - especially texture-wise - "Magician Among the Spirits" is nevertheless a very listenable album. Still, it definitely did not prepare any of us for what was to come...
maani | 3/5 |


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