Swalf16CD Released 18/05/09
Format CD / Digital / £8.99
Magic Arm – is otherwise known as Marc Rigelsford. Like Beck, Beta Band or Patrick Wolf, Magic Arm is a sonically curious soul who fuses folk, pop and effervescent electronics. But, as reference points, none of those three quite hit the spot.
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, dryly, 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.”
Quite. On the album, Magic Arm’s smart update of an old Leroy Carr blues song, ‘Six Cold Feet Of Ground’ (which he turns into a desperate, hurtling, computerised gabbled plea for forgiveness), appears alongside songs called, darkly, ‘Sound Of The Night’ and ‘Rested Bones’. “What can I say?” says Magic Arm, trying to dodge the question. “I’m a moody Cancerian.” Listen closely to the ostensibly larky singles ‘Bootsy Bootsy’ (“Inside everyone, I hear the end, and that’s ominous.”) and ‘Widths & Heights’ – a “bitter” love song – and behind that brash folk-pop exterior, there is clearly trouble at the emotional mill.
Not that Magic Arm will explain why, or reveal many of the close biographical details which inspired these songs. In an age of emotional incontinence, he is wary, uncomfortable with the idea of explaining himself to strangers. He can articulate vulnerability in song; but, in person, he needs to keep those songs at (Magic) arms’ length. “I find lyrics difficult. I can spend hours and hours over one line. ‘What am I giving, or not giving, away here? Do I sound like an idiot?’ You’re right, 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.”
He is reticent to spill, you suspect, precisely – and slightly ironically – because he feels the songs so keenly. “I want to move people emotionally. But, primarily, I want to move myself. For me, writing the songs is emotionally cathartic.”
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. Early solo performances led Samuel Beam of the much loved Iron & Wine, to hail Marc “the master of the loop pedal” and he wasn’t wrong. More recently though Marc has abandoned this tricksy bit of kit and has been taking to the stage with a real live band. No longer focussed on layering up live-sampled layers of sound, the Magic Arm live show has a new passion and energy that give the songs a life beyond the recordings.
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.”
Ed Droste from Grizzly Bear wrote on his blog ‘Two Things I Love’ My dog and This new band “Magic Arm” out of the UK. “Incredible music”
‘Move Out’’s sleazy bleep-funk, meanwhile, sounds like the best MIA backing track you’ve never heard, while blues standard ‘Six Cold Feet Of Ground’ is reimagined as a haunting electro-ballad. NME
Format CD / Digital / £8.99
1. Widths & Heights
2. Bootsy Bootsy
3. Outdoor Games
4. Move Out
5. The Coach House
6. Getting The Way
7. Slates On A Roof
8. Six Cold Feet Of Ground
9. Rested Bones
10. Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
11. People Need Order
12. Sound Of The Night