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Magic 12 - High

  by John Clarkson

published: 14 / 11 / 2002

Magic 12 - High
Label: Dumb Luck Recordings
Format: CD


Haunting and evocative third album from alt. rock group Magic 12, which, finding the Boston group moving in new pop direction, proves to be its "most experimental and eclectic album to date"

It has been a tough year for Magic 12's frontman and songwriter, Toby Ingalls. At the beginning of the year a few weeks before the Boston group was due to go into the studio to begin recording its third album, 'High', its original line-up broke up. Rather than abandon the album and the band, and a collection of songs that he had spent nearly a year working on, Ingalls, however, decided to soldier on alone. After taking a few weeks to rework the songs, he returned to the studio with a second temporary line-up of Magic 12, which, as well as himself on guitar, vocals, piano, and organ, also included Boston producer and musician Pete Weiss on bass, guitar and percussion ; Nick Buni, a member of a local group, Mittens, on drums, and Frank Black guitarist Rich Gilbert on pedal steel. It is a unique tribute to Ingalls' capabilities as a songwriter that, against such difficult odds, the results should prove to be so effective and rewarding. At one level, 'High' naturally develops onwards from the group's two previous albums, 'Magic 12' (1998) and 'Dear Diary' (2000). The haunting evocativeness and the brooding introspection that made both those albums such compelling experiences are still very much in evidence. Ingalls' ability at summing up a situation or a problem in a phrase or a line also remains undiminished. "Please dream me a haven/To recapture my sense/Paint me into your landscape/Sitting on a fence" he sings about an unrequited love affair on the opening track 'Day Dreamer', in which the song's narrator falls for someone who is completely unaware of his existence. 'Threw a Stone' meanwhile tells of a love affair which suddenly and irrevocably disintegrates "I threw a stone into your heart/Watched you sink into your thoughts/Never coming up for air/You're lost inside a stare" Ingalls mournfully croons, shaping out a scenario in which one inappropriate, misplaced remark totally destroys everything. At another level though, 'High' is a completely different recording from both its predecessors. While 'Magic 12' and 'Dear Diary' were largely dominated by classically-trained pianist Beth Heinberg's swirling, omnipresent piano, 'High', in direct contrast, is a guitar album. With the piano largely absent from its recording, 'High' is more fluctuated in its focus, and is Ingalls' most experimental and eclectic album to date. The echoing, shimmering 'Daydreamer' is enhanced by Weiss softly playing his guitar with an e-bow, while the ethereal 'Threw a Stone', one of the few tracks still to incorporate a piano, is gently expanded with chimes of understated guitar, and sudden rasps of organ. "Only yesterday I recognised you/But now I am not sure who is running from who" Ingalls leers with acidic gustiness on the breezy 'You Can't Change', which, about an awkward encounter with a former friend, employs a slowed-down heavy metal blues riff. The sinister 'Deflating', which finds a depressed Ingalls down on his luck and desperately in need of comfort, ("From on the ground/There's no looking down/I can only hope/You'll help me up") meanwhile uses a talk box, while the rumbling 'Sadly Mistaken', about a case of mistaken identity ("Mistaken identities/ or parallel lives/People look similar/in divided light") , is spiky and punkish in tone Although many of its songs are musically upbeat, the subject matter of 'High'-friendships lost, romances broken and relationships that have never got off the ground-remains very dark. Essentially a pop album, it finds Ingalls moving convincingly into new territory. Although 'High' has had a difficult birth and baptism, it is good to hear him and Magic 12 back and on such striking form.

Track Listing:-
1 Daydreamer
2 Coming Down
3 Radio Wave
4 You Can Change
5 Toss and Turn
6 Threw a Stone
7 Deflating
8 40 Winks
9 Sadly Mistaken
10 To be Free

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