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Magic Bus - Phillip The Egg CD (album) cover

PHILLIP THE EGG

Magic Bus

Canterbury Scene


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4 stars Magic Bus 'Phillip the Egg' 'enter the astral porthole.

I was provided a preview copy of this album by the band.

MAGIC BUS is a Totnes, Devon-based band performing in the Canterbury Scene/West Coast vibe sub-genre within Progressive Rock Music. Current members: Paul Evans, Jay Darlington, Terence Waldstradt, Wihll Mellorz, Viv Goodwin- Darke, and Mitch Pike.

'Phillip the Egg' is their third album, set to be released May 1, 2017.

I'm no expert in the Canterbury Scene school of progressive music, let me be clear. I've learned a bit from reading an essay in Progarchives, the progressive rock 'bible'. I've heard some Caravan tracks, and a few of the names of the early musicians, like Steve Hillage, Robert Wyatt, Richard Sinclair have some resonance.

But my tastes lean more toward the symphonic and metal edges of progressive music and there's always plenty to discover and to hear.

I am, however, old enough to remember- and even to participate in to some degree- the free-love era of hippies, Woodstock, love, peace, and drugs.

In addition, I relate to this album by MAGIC BUS because although they don't explicitly say so, there's plenty to suggest that at least some members love fantasy and science fiction. The band logo itself suggests Tolkien-esque runes (Elvish, of course), and the titles of the 8 tracks on this album also suggest the sort of epic voyage found in the best of those genres of literature.

So I approach this album as a musician, writer, reader, and fan of progressive rock music, and find in it sophistication, subtlety, fine ensemble playing, thematic repetition that helps build and release tension and many layers of texture and sound.

The context of the album, the title, the band's name, the members and their appearance, and their statements in public places cause me to believe they have made some commitments to the same sort of hippie vibe in which I grew and for a time embraced.

I heard this album as an expression of the longing for a simple, clean, peaceful, loving world, that so often seems to contrast with current reality. Hippies had the dream of a counter-cultural revolution, fighting non-violently against 'the System' and 'the Man' who were emblematic of structure, rules, order, bureaucracy, conformity, and submission.

MAGIC BUS with 'Phillip the Egg' appears to push in that direction via a cosmic journey, utilizing throw-back musical forms and sounds that encourage reminiscence about the '60's and '70's. However, the format suggests these musicians don't see the revolution able to save what this society, this world, has become.

I generally review albums via headphones, and was impressed with the layered, subtle musicality, the depth of keyboard sounds, the use of the flute, the interplay of guitars from clean to driven sounds right and left and center, along with excellent vocal lines and harmonies. The rhythm section was never showy- crisp drums alongside the roots-y bass-lines that sometimes took the lead, but were worlds away from the kind of in-your-face playing of Chris Squire or Geddy Lee.

In fact what I appreciated was how varied, changing, evolving, and engaging each track became, using a multitude of instrumentation and sound- mellotrons, synths, vibes, flute, and piano, plus the already mentioned guitar layers. None of this was the focus however.

Rather, it seemed to be the ensemble, the totality, that was the focus here. I caught flavors of the Middle East, and perhaps some Spanish sounds, and the use of repetition, yet varying. There might be bombast, as in Kepler 22b, but it would then evolve into something else.

Phillip the Egg became escapist, in the way Tolkien was escapist, yet also provided some commentary on contemporary times.

I found this an engaging, enjoyable musical experience. On a ten point scale I'd rate it 8.5/10- pretty darned strong.

Report this review (#1716079)
Posted Sunday, April 30, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Magic Bus' new album 'Phillip the Egg' starts with 'Mystical Mountain', a jaunty, infectious tune with a lovely burbling guitar sound, that bridges the gap between this offering and 2014s 'Sogmore'. However, the second (instrumental) part of the track heads us into a jazzier, spacier direction that gives a good indication of where the band seem to be progressing. There is great interplay between Darlington's impressive keyboard work and Waldstadt's nimble guitar. After the frenetic final section of Mystical Mountain, Fading Light comes as a period of blissful, pastoral calm. Trail to Canaa, to my ear, seems to combine an almost folky 'feel' with a chunkier keyboard sound, not unlike that used by some of the classic 70's Italian bands. Zeta and Distant Future possess almost 'Gong-like' riffs but are augmented by beautiful vocal harmonies. At the stage of writing, Kepler 22b is the standout track. It is, to my mind, the most 'progressive' track on the album and combines everything I love about Magic Bus. The band are fantastic musicians and this track showcases their talents from Mellorz' agile bass runs to Darlington's beautifully layered keyboard sounds, via Waldstadt's flawless guitar work and Goodwin-Darke's lovely flute figures. Paul Evans vocals are distinctive and beguiling and perfectly match his musical and lyrical vision. 'Phillip the Egg' is an outstanding album: brilliantly balanced, superbly recorded and musically rich. Put simply, it is the best album I have listened to in the last ten years and represents, for Magic Bus, a big step forward from their previous (excellent) albums.

Music, like all the Arts, is a reaction to and against what has gone before and it would be easy to simply compare the band to artists such as Gong and Hatfield and the North. There are obvious influences, but the band combine brilliantly to bring something fresh, vivid, new and exciting to the table. (4.5 stars)

Phil Dudman

Report this review (#1719032)
Posted Monday, May 8, 2017 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Magic Bus have pretty strongly established their style in the two albums preceding new release Phillip the Egg, and they don't really deviate from it here - again, it's an intoxicated bland of Canterbury-esque whimsy (drawing largely on the warm humour of Caravan and the mystical interests of Gong) with West Coast hippy sensibilities, as well as tight jamming in the instrumental sections reminiscent of the overlap between Ozric Tentacles and You-era Gong. If that sounds like the sort of thing you'd enjoy, then you're in luck, because that's exactly what hatches out of this egg. If you've heard Magic Bus's preceding albums, you pretty much already know what to expect here and whether or not you'll like it.
Report this review (#1729442)
Posted Friday, June 2, 2017 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars England's revivalists of the Bay Area psychedelia and Canterbury Scene have returned with another collection of one that flows and develops slowly in its complexity and dexterity over the course of the album. As a matter of fact, it seems to me upon repeated listens that the opening songs are fairly simple and pleasant and innocent while the trend progresses toward more expressions of anger and discord towards the end of the longer songs and the album itself.

I would have liked to hear more instrumental expressivity and complexity but am exceedingly happy for the input of this collection of songs that take me to a place that was much more innocent and carefree.

1. "Mystical Mountain" (8:50) a nice epic with simple Canterbury-lite (witty a la CARAVAN) approach to the vocal sections. The instrumental sections are more experimental but very subtly so. (8.5/10)

2. "Fading to Light" (3:36) absolutely gorgeous study in sound and space. I think the band are showing true signs of commitment to one another in diving deeply into their chemistry and technical proficiency. (10/10)

3. "Trail to Canada" (5:43) the first half is a bit innocuous but then a big shift and a rocking psychedelic second half lifts it up into memorability. (8.5/10)

4. "Zeta" (4:34) electronic psychedelia (reversed tracks) play from beginning before JEFFERSON AIRPLANE-like sound and structure establishes itself. The ethereal mid-section is interesting--perhaps a bit out of place. Nicely performed though there are a few sections that are a little drawn out with little or no development. (9/10)

5. "Distant Future" (7:11) is by far the most demanding both compositionally and of the listener--which is a good thing for this band. Discordant, edgie and syncopated, though still psychedelic--at least, until the fourth minute when a chorus temporarily gels it all together. The song returns briefly before going Fripp on us with some interesting lead guitar. I like the band's adventurousness here though it doesn't necessarily result in a beautiful or "shout about" song. (8.5/10)

6. "Kepler 226" (6:41) an instrumental that once again displays the band's cerebral commitment to technically complicated musics. (8.75/10)

7. "Kalamazoo" (3:30) a surprisingly sedate, more-acoustic-oriented approach to the band's sound. Nice but nothing extraordinary here. (8/10)

8. "Yantra Tunnels" (5:04) opens with harmonium and other Indian-sounding sounds. In the second minute Western instruments like drums and electric guitars enter and take over. This one rocks--like a good rockin' German Krautrock song from the 1970s. Even when it amps up a notch in the fourth minute it still (or even more) retains that Krautrock feel. (9/10)

4.5 stars; an excellent submission of psychedelic Canterbury-esque music. I predict that MAGIC BUS's next album is going to be a true masterpeice!

Report this review (#1734973)
Posted Saturday, June 17, 2017 | Review Permalink

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