This is the album that Stephen Magnusson has been building towards. The Melburnian has long distinguished himself as among the world’s most fascinating guitarists, and now he pulls together a combination of musicians to make a group sound that is just as distinctive as his own playing.
Like Magnusson’s guitar work, therefore, that sound is not one thing, but a series of colliding sonic worlds whose common denominators are enchantment and drama. He has assembled the unusual line-up of vocals (Carl Pannuzzo), trumpet (Eugene Ball) and drums (Sergio Beresovsky), and his collaborators are all equally at home reaching for the ethereal or careening into the gutbucket. These are the hallmarks of Magnusson’s art: starlit enchantment one moment, scorching intensity the next.
In Pannuzzo he has a singer who can earth the ethereality with completely unselfconscious wordless improvising (and an extraordinary voice), but then can also add an angelic halo here or there. At his most potent his singing is a bullish, braying roar that matches Magnusson’s fiercest howls of distortion. Ball, by contrast, is all quicksilver darts and flashes, with the ability to flick a switch up to an operatic strata of drama and anguish.
Beresovsky makes the bass-less grooves dance, and, just as crucially, is an astute orchestrator of the colours at his disposal, allowing him to shade Magnusson’s constant shifts. These may be between acoustic and electric guitars, or on the latter between shimmering rapture and snarling fury. Always there is an oddly ephemeral quality at play, which makes this a particularly magical album.