Life Has Not Finished With Me Yet

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Veteran musical collective Piano Magic’s 11th album sees them grab both the baroqueness of Dead Can Dance and the skeletal stylings of late 1970s/early 1980s New Wave, swallowing them whole and spitting out that which made them original. Kicking off with the mournful cello of the short instrumental of “Matin”, we know that this is not going to be the feel good album of the summer. It effectively lays down the album’s musical ground rules and embarks on a what will transpire to be a familiar journey. The album is essentially interested in atmospherics rather than song structure, be it the sinister cinema/fairground-esque organ which dominates “Sing Something”, the early The Cure-styled guitar and synth double feature of “Higher Definition” or the almost-Jethro Tull aping, medieval sounding “Lost Antiphony” (thankfully lacking Ian Anderson’s cod piece – I hope). The aforementioned Dead Can Dance similarities are apt but unfortunately band leader Glen Johnson voice lacks the deep baritone of Brendan Perry and whereas the likes of the title track has the potential of, and contains elements of a dark, portentous piece it comes across as ultimately lacking and toothless. Indeed, I’d argue that parts of the album are marred by this, “Chemical (20MG)” being a case in point. This sees Johnson plaintively decree “It’s only chemical between you and me” to a sparse backing. Perhaps it would have been best if it had just been left with him. Also, “The Slightest of Threads” meanders on aimlessly, effectively leaving the listener to come to the conclusion that it would be more effectively renamed as “The Slightest of Tunes”. So, did I like this album? You’d think not but when it’s good it actually does achieves a high sense of atmospheric drama, an almost ghostly presence which envelopes the listener. When it’s bad it’s simply a case of a paucity of ideas masqueraded by faux-meaningful lyrics and threadbare instrumental passages trying to signify meaning. Perhaps listening to this in the rare sunlight and heat of an English July wasn’t the right setting and that this is music for those bleak autumnal days that our climate is more familiar with, but good music should transport the listener to the place which the artist intends and unfortunately this album only did that sparingly.