Illuminate – Magic Wands (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

As I said when musing over the previous single, Blue Cherry, the great thing about Magic Wand’s sound is that it is both confident and muscular whilst being hazy and dreamlike. It seems like a sonic oxymoron, a creative contradiction in terms. But they create this unique sound by having a hard kicking, beat-driven engine room which they then cover with gossamer sonics, drifting sounds, dream-state vocals, chiming shards of guitar and shimmering synths. The effect is to soften the sound, file off the sharp edges, muffle the bombast. A bit like being smacked in the face with a boxing glove made out of velvet. It feels nice but boy does it land a punch.

Illuminate is also an album which reminds us that making music which is simultaneously intricate and appealing is less about writing clever chord changes and complex structures and more about dressing up simple arrangements with so many sonic layers that the original, basic structure, is hidden beneath beguiling sounds and swirling musical licks. And by embracing such devices Magic Wands produce songs with the most poised pop appeal.

Angel Dust is a gorgeous groover, sultry vocals and languid guitar riffs coiled around alt-dancefloor beats, Paradise is a short-sharp and shockingly appealing slice of hypnotic pop, Bat Baby is taut and twisted electro-rock and Queen of Gypsies is a brilliant slice of pop-gaze.

Magic Wands sit somewhere between the charm of Beach House and the shimmering haze of Warpaint, but neither managed to combine pace and panache, beat and beauty anything like as brilliantly as this band does. 

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