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Piano Magic | Son De Mar (4AD)
It seems that, after an arguably ill-advised foray into the world of dance music, 4AD Records is back to doing what it does best. And there was nothing they did better than ghostly, ethereal ambience. 'Son De Mar' is Piano Magic's soundtrack to Bigas Luna's film of the same name, and is one of those rare soundtracks that actually make you want to see the movie. As church bells chime, waves wash up on beaches and sonorous piano notes hang over the sparse musical landscape, it's hard not to be reminded of those cassettes that were playing in candle shops a decade ago (and probably still today). But Piano Magic succeed in eradicating any snide comments about New Age music by virtue of their commitment to a visual element to the sounds, almost as though they were setting the template for Luna's images, rather than vice versa. Whether the music complements the film is another matter altogether, but as an entity of its own, this is as good at creating an intimate, peaceful ambience as Susumu Yokota's 'Grinning Cat' was earlier this year. Occasionally reminiscent of Michael Brook's work for 4AD in the late eighties and early nineties (most particularly his 'Cobalt Blue'), Piano Magic's music is stripped down to little more than a bare minimum of eerie echoes, though melody and rhythm are not entirely absent, and 'Son De Mar' never veers into dissonance. That the band are huge fans of Luna is never in any doubt, but that they have created a work that stands on its own is the real achievement (even if some of it is reworked from previously released material). Furthermore, it is pleasing to see 4AD renew its commitment to graceful innovation as so many other labels seem happy to settle for the lowest common denominator.
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002