Archive for The Magic Castles

The Magic Castles “Starflower” Revels In Anton Newcombe’s Influence

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2015 by johnbuckley100

In Japan, they call interconnected companies with deep, informal ties keiretsus. In Korea, they refer to business entities with interlocking relationships as chaebols. In rock’n’roll, we have Anton Newcombe who, in his multiple roles as leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, solo artist, producer, and head of the label A Records has connected a web of bands that collectively capture an outsized slice of real estate in our digital music collection, or in psychic-business terms, a large share of mind.

From Birdstriking to KVB, Tess Parks to Flavor Crystals, more often than not, the music that has preoccupied us in recent months somehow all connects back to Anton. Last week we wrote about the Flavor Crystals, whom we first heard open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre years ago. It got us to thinking, and sent us back to listen to the recently released fourth album by Magic Castles, the Minneapolis band we first heard opening for BJM in 2012, and about whom we wondered aloud, are the Magic Castles the best young band in America?

On Starflower, Magic Castles infuse the chiming, psychedelic pop that was so hypnotic on last year’s Sky Sounds in such a strong garage ambiance, you can practically taste the engine oil. Interestingly, for a band releasing their fourth album, it’s really only on this one that, time and again, you can hear the explicit influence of Newcombe; the songs don’t just sound like something BJM would have produced, they sound specifically like recent albums Newcombe’s recorded over the compressed, amazingly prolific last 18 months.

Starflower is not the first music we’ve heard that also invokes Eno’s first album, as Magic Castles do on “Samara,” but it is definitely the first album connecting Newcombe to an earlier multifaceted musician-producer-impresario around whom such great music revolved. Starflower may not take Tulip Frenzy’s Album of The Year, but we can’t stop listening to it. In fact, between the Anton Newcombe and Tess Parks album I Declare Nothing, The Shiver of the Flavor Crystals, and what we’ve heard so far from the impending Brian Jonestown Massacre Mini Album Thingy Wingy, we could, like a business in Japan or Korea, exist entirely within a single keiretsu, one integrated chaebol.

The New Flavor Crystals Album Sends A Shiver Up The Spine

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 23, 2015 by johnbuckley100

You really have to listen to the Flavor Crystals’ new album, though not if you have anyplace you need to go.  The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals is the fourth LP from the Twin Cities psych band, and once you put it on, you may as well sit down and settle in. You won’t want to leave.

Hailing from precincts that have given us First Communion Afterparty and The Magic Castles, the Flavor Crystals quickly dissolved into a minimalist solution, with droning guitar lines over a steady beat, the vocals sometimes an afterthought.  Even fans — and we very much consider ourselves in that category — will be forgiven for admitting the Flavor Crystals are a little more thrilling on stage than perhaps heretofore on their albums, which occasionally have put the Ambien in ambient.

The Shiver Of The Flavor Crystals is stronger than even the best songs on 2008’s Ambergris, which is saying something, and reminded us of why, the moment we saw them open for The Brian Jonestown Massacre and then downloaded “Checker Board” from their debut, On Plastic, we saw Flavor Crystals as a necessary additive to our life.  It is much stronger than their heralded Third, which we found a little lacking in propulsion.  These songs dial up the melody and urgency, though the band certainly never breaks a sweat.

There aren’t easy comparisons to other bands, more like affinities.  The songs are based on the interplay between guitarists that  places them on the same taxonomic scale as Luna, Television, Real Estate.  Twin City friends and fellow BJM allies Magic Castles come to mind.  But then so do much louder bands like My Bloody Valentine, and even more intricate composers like Jonny Greenwood.  Honestly, I could see putting a song like “Diamond Mine” not on a psych playlist, where I’ve routinely dropped their best ‘uns over the past few years.  I could see playing it back to back with Miles Davis’s “In A Silent Way,” maybe with something by Cluster and Eno.

This is gorgeous music, thrilling and relaxing at the same time.  Play it loud.  Just don’t plan on going anywhere.

Tulip Frenzy’s #8 Best Album of 2012 Is The Magic Castle’s Eponymous Debut

Posted in Music with tags , on November 23, 2012 by johnbuckley100

We’d never heard the Magic Castles before they opened for The Brian Jonestown Massacre in August, though the fact that Anton Newcombe had taken them under this wing was of course a good sign.  But wow!  Their first album had all the magic they built on stage, and then some.

It was a rhetorical question when we asked “Are the Magic Castles the best young band in America?”  For with references such as what follows from our review at the time, of course the answer was yes.  “Imagine John Densmore drumming while Dean Wareham and Sterling Morrison back up Neil Young.  We’d read the reference to them in last week’s issue of The New Yorker, capsule-previewing their opening for the BJM with that shorthand citation: a comparison to the Velvet Underground.  As some know, Tulip Frenzy has an office policy, rigidly enforced from the senior staff on down to the interns, to be curious about any band that is referenced in the same sentence as the VU, either as in, “They sound like the Velvet Underground,” or, “They sound nothing like the Velvet Underground.”  We don’t much care which way it goes; any such reference is worthy of our checking it out.  Only, when we saw them play last night, we didn’t think of the VU so much as First Communion Afterparty, the Doors, Luna, Kurt Vile, Fripp and Eno, or maybe it’s Cluster and Eno — all of them great character references.”

Are The Magic Castles The Best Young Band In America?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on August 23, 2012 by johnbuckley100

We saw the Magic Castles open for the Brian Jonestown Massacre at the 930 Club last night.  Too often, you have to endure opening acts to get to the main event, and few things are worse than having to sit through the thudding gyrations of bands you find just fundamentally lacking.  This is not so much the case when the BJM are in town; Anton Newcombe is many things, and one of them is a good mentor, as evidenced by how many of the bands we love have cited, on their websites, that they toured with the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  It’s like a punk rock Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, playing with BJM, and it’s worth showing up an hour earlier than otherwise you might. We’ve liked The Young Sinclairs, and that Icelandic band, Singapore Sling, they had open for them in 2009, and didn’t we see the Flavor Crystals open for them once? But The Magic Castles were… magic.

Imagine John Densmore drumming while Dean Wareham and Sterling Morrison back up Neil Young.  We’d read the reference to them in last week’s issue of The New Yorker, capsule-previewing their opening for the BJM with that shorthand citation: a comparison to the Velvet Underground.  As some know, Tulip Frenzy has an office policy, rigidly enforced from the senior staff on down to the interns, to be curious about any band that is referenced in the same sentence as the VU, either as in, “They sound like the Velvet Underground,” or, “They sound nothing like the Velvet Underground.”  We don’t much care which way it goes; any such reference is worthy of our checking it out.  Only, when we saw them play last night, we didn’t think of the VU so much as First Communion Afterparty, the Doors, Luna, Kurt Vile, Fripp and Eno, or maybe it’s Cluster and Eno — all of them great character references.

So we didn’t know they were from Minneapolis, which makes some sense given the FCAP vibe.  They’re not really like the late and lamented psyche-tyros — granted, the Magic Castles’ music, especially as recorded, has these psilocybin traces of the color spectrum limning its edges, though not the lysergic propulsion of that other sadly mothballed Minneapolis band.  On vinyl, on the eponymous record they put out on Anton’s A Records, they’re more like an entrant into the Elephant 6 landscape: ’60’s vocals that emerge like beekeeping monks who have all just swallowed  something interesting spontaneously breaking out into song, while the guitar notes wind around their black-clad habits like a quietly buzzing but sonically active hive.  Live, though, they were tougher, more Summer of Luvish, a band we could imagine coming not from the Twin Cities but from our Notional Brooklyn, where the artisanal hippies have all gone to roost, tinkering in their workshops, a serious Portlandia where everything is made of fresh-baked fixins that have tasty undertones.  Yeah, the Magic Castles make you think this way.  Let’s hear more.

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