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The Magus

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Album Review

Falling giddily between the cracks of psychedelia, prog and free-form jazz, Third Ear Band baffled the best in the late '60s/early '70s, then cemented their reputation by providing the soundtrack to Roman Polanski's film Macbeth, which was also to be the band's third and final album. A fourth one, however, was recorded in December, 1972, under the aegis of Ear's soundman Ron Kort, who also supplied percussion and piano to the set. But with their deal with Harvest Records at an end, and no new takers for the album in sight, the band faded away, to surface a handful of times in later years. The tapes, meanwhile, were carefully preserved by Kort, until finally Angel Air offered them a home. Magus would have defied description at the time, and the musical progression over the intervening years has only highlighted the problem. Today a song like "New Horizon" with its gloomy electronics and militant beats would probably be tagged goth, a genre that didn't even exist back in '72. The title track, too, could fall into that same category with its insistent rhythm and moody melody, at least, until the organ swoops down in all its pompous, early-'70s glory. And what of "The Phoenix," a spoken word piece accompanied by recorder, twittering bird effects, and a low rumble-like aural wave? Beat poetry or improv jazz? The tribal drums that accompany "The Key" also sound thoroughly modern, while the violin that sweeps overhead in muted gypsy fashion pushes the number towards world music, although club crowds might prefer to claim it for their own. Elsewhere, the more electronic "Cosmic Wheel," with its rousing rhythm and Indian flavor, calls to mind the more intriguing electro-sounds of the early '80s. The song reappears as "Kosmik Wheel" at the end of the set, Mike Marchant's harsh vocals industrial in tone, the music itself now giving way to total

abandon, and only the time-warp sound of the organ betrays its actual belated date.

A shocking, but masterful, album for its day, and no less so three decades later. One wishes store staff good luck in the thankless task of choosing a genre bin for this set.

Biography

Formed: 1968

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Although they were loosely affiliated with the British progressive rock scene of the late '60s and early '70s, Third Ear Band was in some ways more of an experimental ensemble performing contemporary compositional work. For one thing, they didn't use electric instruments, or even guitars, instead employing violin, viola, oboe, cello, and hand percussion. More important, they didn't play conventional rock "songs." They featured extended instrumental pieces that often built up from a drone, or hypnotic...
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The Magus, Third Ear Band
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