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Popular Mechanics

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Album Review

Hunting down old girlfriends or treasured childhood television shows can seem like a good idea at the time, but bands like Piano Magic recognize that after the initial warmth of nostalgia washes away, most memories are best left fantasized about. With a formula that perks curiosity — artless experimentation, revolving bandmembers, using old-tech toys in new-tech situations — Popular Mechanics is less about what kind of music you really listened to as a kid and more about what you remember what you listened to. "Revolving Moth Cage" takes a painlessly childish keyboard melody and inserts it into a complex canvas of ambient trickery while the friendly Eraserhead interpretations on "Birth of an Object" are just on the right side of despondent, electronic reinvention. The self-proclaimed Kraftwerk and drum 'n' bass influences are disguised as well: to be sure, there's a certain antique thrust to the badly spoken word "Wrong French" or a Kid 606-like junkyard scream to the "Metal Coffee" red herring, but it's how mainman Glen Johnson strives to "aim for the heart" that really makes the album worthwhile. This is splayed-out Krautrock dub with a newly found sense of compassion. Much like the reconstructionist vibe of comic book writer Kurt Busiek, Piano Magic seem intent in rediscovering a childhood that never existed, reexamining those memories that never happened — all with an innovative, electronic zeal that would make most any fellow auteur flush with admiration.


Formed: 1996

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Due to a wide range of influences, restless/relentless creative energies, and a supporting cast that's too numerous to list in full, random peeks into the catalog of the Glen Johnson-helmed Piano Magic -- from super limited-edition singles on Spanish independents to full-length soundtracks -- rarely result in the same thing twice. Started in the mid-'90s by Johnson, Dominic Chennell, and Dick Rance with the intention to base their recordings around a small nucleus and whomever would like to contribute...
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Popular Mechanics, Piano Magic
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