Magic Trick The Glad Birth of Love

[Empty Cellar; 2011]

Styles: thoughtfull, light-as-a-pixie psych-/folk-tinged rock
Others: Tim Cohen, Black Fiction, Fresh & Onlys, Thee Oh Sees, Sandwitches,

Tim Cohen, we barely knew ye. Or, at least, we didn’t get the full picture. For that we have to travel back in time a half-decade or so to the days of Black Fiction, a brow-furrowing little gremlin of a kitchen-sink indie group that swung for the sky and ended up coming close enough to make the folks in the nosebleed section cheer. Or, you could punk-spelunk back to the days of Smif Carnivorous, Feller Quentin (some of whose members went on to form BF), and Amocoma (fittingly a black-metal band — an amazing one, at that) — three aliases/bands that appear to have facilitated Cohen’s development as a songsmith.

There’s also 3 Leafs, a “Bay Area all-star free-improv psych band” (I’m using quote marks because I was told this; I have no fucking idea. If I covered all of Cohen’s side project I’d have time for nothing else), the Forest Fires Collective, a hip-hop group (again: haven’t yet absorbed that one), and Window Twins — I assume they’re a band.

There’s also The Fresh & Onlys, of course, and their Secret Walls EP, along with Cohen’s three solo LPs, The Two Sides Of, Laugh Tracks, and Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick, is the closest thing to The Glad Birth of Love I’ve managed to find, yet it still doesn’t come close. Cohen’s debut as Magic Trick is like pulling a sparkling, bilingual, all-knowing mega-rabbit out of a nickel-plated asshat from nowhere, and it’s so good you might say it takes his non-Fresh & Onlys career to a new level. Most perplexing of all is the teensy traces of past work that pop up. Nothing overt, just little flourishes like the chord progressions of “Cherished One” (a touch like the patterns from “The Confusion of Man” from F&O’s Grey-Eyed Girls) and the four/floor beat and general mood of “Clyde” (which reminds me of Black Fiction’s folkier material like “You Can Find Me” from Ghost Ride, though, on the whole, BF were all over the place aesthetically).

More than anything, it’s enthralling to hear Cohen’s vision come together so seamlessly. Not that I would expect anything different from the visioneer behind Fresh & Onlys, but The Glad Birth of Love is like hearing those early OCS recordings after being an ardent Coachwhips fan, or plugging into Edward Ka-Spel’s solo work after indulging in a lot of Legendary Pink Dots, or — to up the ante even more — what I imagine it was like to hear gruff-ass Alex Chilton hawking up “The Letter” on the radio, then, years later, witness his rejuvenation in the ranks of Big Star.

I’d stop short of recommending Cohen’s three self-titled LPs with vigor, but I can’t recommend Magic Trick’s proper debut enough, especially if you enjoy Cohen’s other delvings.

Links: Magic Trick - Empty Cellar

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