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Piano Magic | Seasonally Affective (Rocket Girl)
Sub-titled 'A Piano Magic Retrospective 1996-2000', this album gathers together the entire singles output of Glen Johnson's collective, alongside compilation cuts, 25 tracks in all across a double CD. That most of the material here has previously only been available on vinyl, many long out of print, makes this a more worthwhile anthology than most. That it plays so well as an album is more remarkable, the b-side often the final resting place of the undeveloped idea or failed experiment. Johnson's lyrics, invariably sung or spoken in choir-practice English by either Raechel Leigh, Hazel Burfitt, Caroline Potter or Jen Adam and, occasionally, with his own dead-pan indifference, read like poetic love letters, European cinema dialogue or diary entries. "And I'm too tiny for a heart this big / It swells like an ocean / It's breaking this jail of ribs / And he said it wouldn't hurt / A lie the size of the sky" (Wrong French). The instrumentals often counterbalance such doomed romanticism, electronica, toyshop whimsy and sinister sound collages, considered and imaginative, perfect for film. The introduction of drummer Miguel Marin and now departed guitarist John Cheves on later tracks such as The Canadian Brought Us Snow acts as a precursor to 2000's majestic 'Artists Rifles' album, but 'Seasonally Affective' closes, appropriately enough, with a solo instrumental and the promise that the direction of album number four, their forthcoming debut for 4AD (the recent score for Bigas Luna's 'Son de Mar' aside), will be perplexingly tough to predict.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002

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