Magic Arm – who, in 2009, you will see erroneously described as a singer-songwriter; laptop-folk troubadour; and more – is otherwise known as Marc Regisford. Like Beck, Beta Band or Adem, Magic Arm is a sonically curious soul who fuses folk, rock and effervescent electronics. But, as reference points, none of those three quite hit the spot.
Magic Arm was born in Rustington, West Sussex but now lives in Manchester (he studied photography at University there). Previous musical projects include the band Escape Pod, who once put a 10″ out on XL offshoot, Rex. Marc claims that he only started making music as Magic Arm in order to help out a film-maker friend who needed some soundtrack music, quick smart. In truth, Magic Arm has spent years painstakingly forging his sound. He plays all the instruments (drums, keyboards, guitars) himself, and has laboriously taught himself how to use Pro-Tools and such, in order to create music that, refreshingly, defies easy categorisation.
It helps that so little (outside of the Beach Boys and “early” McCartney) has obviously influenced the Magic Arm sound. You might expect him, given his love of bleeps and farty electronic squelches, to be a big fan of everything from Kraftwerk to Autechre. Not so. “Buying a Yamaha CS-10 in Cash Converter was the biggest influence on my sound,” he says, drily, before talking about his love of Gwen Stefani, Dizzee Rascal, Peaches and Gnarls Barkley. “I’m literally trying to write pop music,” says Marc, “but it never comes out that way. There’s always a dark edge to it.”
Whilst such ambitious projects often shine in the studio, on the stage many a 21st century one-man-band has come unstuck. Not so Magic Arm. Samuel Beam of the much loved Iron & Wine has hailed Marc “the master of the loop pedal” and in this lies the secret of Magic Arm’s enthralling live performances. When Magic Arm plays live, he feeds his mic, guitar and keyboard through the aforementioned pedal. To build up his songs, he then has to play different parts from each instrument, through the pedal, sampling and looping the fragments as he goes, in order to weave together the constituent parts of his songs.
So much music is safe, predictable, a commodity, but Magic Arm is here to remind you that it can still be liberating, messy and powerful. Radio 1’s Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens, and Marc Riley, are already fans. He has supported the likes of Beirut, Iron & Wine and James Yorkston. Steve Lamacq declared Magic Arm’s Glastonbury festival debut a “highlight”, while the Manchester Evening News have dubbed him: “The most innovative and sparkling new musician in the city.”
As an introduction to the world of Magic Arm, ‘Bootsy Bootsy’ could not be better. The pure joy of this ostensibly larky, hugely infectious slice of DIY pop, is subverted neatly by the lyric “Inside everyone, I hear the end, and that’s ominous.”. Magic Arm revels in these contrasts – “on the album, there’s a lot of happy music undercut by sentiments that are quite bleak. But isn’t that how music should work? It should fool you, slightly.”
Magic Arms’ early singles were released on Switchflicker – the label that launched The Ting Tings – but now this Manchester independent has joined forces with the esteemed Peacefrog (José Gonzalez, Findlay Brown) to help ensure that Magic Arm gets the breaks he so richly deserves. Rest assured in 2009, Magic Arm is going to make a lot of new friends.