Magic Trick (Record Release Party)

Magic Trick

Empty Cellar is proud to release the newest album by Magic Trick, Other Man's Blues. This offering from the band finds songwriter, Tim Cohen at a crossroads. It was written and recorded during a year that split his time between two lives, in two worlds. The newer of these was on a horse ranch in the northern Arizona desert where he and his partner spent their first year with their newborn daughter. The second of these two was the music world. The latter took place on the road, on tour with Magic Trick or with the Fresh & Onlys. And in the case of Other Man's Blues, it took place for one week at Phil Manley's Lucky Cat Studios in San Francisco.

Tim arrived at the studio with a color-coded composition book of songs he'd been writing while bouncing to and fro. This book would have to suffice in lieu of rehearsal time with the 13 other musicians who appear on the tracks. About half of the tracks feature James Kim on drums, the other half James Barone (Beach House). Alicia Van Heuvel (Aislers Set) and Paul Garcia split time on bass. Joel Robinow (Once and Future Band / Danny James) contributes on keys. Emmett Kelly (The Cairo Gang / The Muggers) provides a couple stunning guitar solos. There are omnipresent vocal harmonies from Alicia, Noelle Cahill and Anna Hillburg, the latter of whom also plays some trumpet. San Francisco standbys Dylan Edrich, Tom Heyman, and Marc Capelle all contribute. It was a loose, largely improvised affair.

The album's roster is less the product of grand ambition, and more the result of an open-door policy at the studio. These sessions also served as an opportunity for Tim to hang out with friends while in town. He'd see who was around, they'd swing by. Allegedly tequila was centrally involved. A "hit the joint and come up with a bit" approach. "Here's a chord chart. Go." And guest appearances are more than just a little icing on top here. It's the principle that warranted giving this project a band name five years ago: when Tim's non-onlys oeuvre stopped being credited to Tim Cohen and instead was attributed to Magic Trick. Especially in the case of Other Man's Blues, the players on the album define what shapes these songs take.

And it's a wide variety of shapes you'll find on this album. Take this less as a conscious display of versatility (although it does demonstrate Cohen & Co.'s ability to shape-shift) and more as a result of the freewheeling, haphazard recording environment described above. A ghostly choir of female voices open the album like a seance. And the spirit they conjure proceeds to flit about over the course of the ensuing ten tracks, animating various stylistic forms, from the baroque pop of "Forest of Kates" to the icy post-punk of "I Held the Ring." There's the air-tight R&B groove of "Startling Chimes," the krauty "Purest Thing," a jammy side-to-side trot that moves "First Thought" along, taking a detour into country before culminating in a glorious Grateful Dead indebted coda. But throughout, it's Tim's lyrics that are pushed to the front of the mix. This album is a display of solid songwriting - collectively fleshed out, but from Tim's composition book, and with Tim's lyrics about family and about himself. These songs are the sound of his friends helping him suss through the conflicts of his new dual existence as father and musician, between old self and new.

Magic Trick's 2013 offering, River of Souls, opens with Cohen asking, "Should we live from the mirrors other side?" Maybe, what you have here on Other Man's Blues is an attempt to do just that. You can hear that his scope is widening, is being forced to widen by his circumstance. These songs are full of empathy. They reckon with notions of sacrifice and devotion, acknowledge the "winds of desire" and admit that "musings come from below" like a force of nature. Our protagonist is mid-transformation or maybe even pre-transformation. He is able to "regard his gruesome self" only because he is becoming a new man. Both sides are present. Which is the Other Man? Who is Tim Cohen? What is this magic he is trying pull off? Is it a trick? Or true sorcery? Either way, he must evolve.

The Range of Light Wilderness

The band is a three piece centered on songwriter Tommy Frank MacDonald. The sound is hushed and catchy, melodically magical, beachy pop. Songs are born from long days in Big Sur, where Tommy dwells on high ridge top, in the center of a sunset.

Pure Bliss

Nine Ways to Begin a Pure Bliss Bio
1. While you slurped down a thimble full of DMT last CMJ, Pure Bliss merged two shimmering guitar leads into a single javelin of sound to split the heart of ecstasy.
2. Two musicians sauntered along either side of a white picket fence and struck it with twigs in the spring. At the fence’s terminus near the abbey, Frank Ene and Sam Weiss started a band.
3. Oakland has a moderate climate. Still, it felt quite cool when Pure Bliss formed in 2013.
4. Jean Genet wrote that “harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance.” I think that at least one member of Pure Bliss agrees. Bassist Margot Rhodes is undecided.
5. “True conjurers, Pure Bliss . . . [They] yanked the gold outta the chaff in a five-gallon bucket for two nights room and board last winter.”
6. Forget what you think you know about Oakland—Pure Bliss leader Frank Ene lives in Berkeley.
7. In a band that drummer Sam Lefebvre calls rock but Ene calls pop, Joe Carducci susses a problem.
8. Pure Bliss covers Christian Death on Halloween and fawns over the Go-Betweens in private. The rest is speculation.
9. Boss TU-2 Tuner—Diamond Compressor—Menatone Red Snapper Overdrive—Z-Vex Mastotron Distortion—MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay—Boss CE-2 Chorus—Electro-Harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb—Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler—MXR Micro Amp Boost—Boss TU-2 Tuner—Timmy Overdrive—Behringer RV-600 Reverb Machine—Z-Vex Fuzz Factory Fuzz—Janglebox Compressor—Boss EH-2 Enhancer—Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler—Boss DD-3 Digital Delay.

Tavi Sutcif
Oakland, 2013

Cool Ghouls

Empty Cellar Records is stoked to announce the third full-length release by San Francisco's Cool Ghouls, Animal Races. Fans of their self-titled debut and 2014's A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye will be similarly stoked to hear how this band has continued to evolve. If the first album was a celebratory debut, and the second an earnest venture into deeper waters... this third album is like the crystal born of the murky womb that was the second, fertilized by the initial intention of the first. Not only have the ghouls reaped the crop they sowed; they’ve baked it into some new kind of bread!

For the uninitiated - Cool Ghouls play rock'n'roll. That's about all there is to it. They're California natives. They try to do a good job. They like to try to elevate and get far out. They also like to keep it real. They like to make friends and have a good time. They don't like bullshit. They want to keep growing and learning how to become more powerful musicians. This record reflects the discoveries they’ve made over the last five years about live performance, themselves, and each other.

The eleven tracks, recorded to tape by Kelley Stoltz in his backyard studio and mixed and mastered by Mikey Young (Total Control etc.), are first and foremost documents of the four-piece's live performance of the tunes. Many of the songs were road-tested, but - unlike the prior records - a few of them were not. This opened the door for some new looks: an acoustic guitar, some synth, upright piano, a little pedal steel wizardry from Tom Heyman, etc. It’s Cool Ghouls doing what they've always done, but in more ways and better.

Animal Races will be available on LP/CD (8/19/16) in the US via Empty Cellar Records and the EU/UK via Melodic Records, and worldwide on cassette via Burger Records. All versions feature full-color artwork painted by Shannon Shaw (Shannon and The Clams). Distributed by Revolver/Midheaven (USA).

$12.00

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