Young Magic: Breathing Statues (Carpark)
Young Magic is an act I stumbled onto after I saw their 2012 debut Melt highlighted on a year-end list. I really enjoyed that album’s rougher edges, its thunderous percussion, chant-like vocals, and abrasive arrangements that were equally discordant and infectious. Their follow-up is a tamer animal, and because of that it’s a grower, but it’s the more relaxed, looser complement to Melt’s more rambunctious personality. For whatever reason, despite playing Breathing Statues over and over since getting it several months ago, I’ve found myself lacking a lot of words to describe it. It starts quietly with the thirty-second prologue of “One,” followed by “Fall In” which sets the tone well in contrast to Melt. Vocalist Melati Melay leads the first few tracks, which already distinguishes the album from its predecessor, wherein Isaac Emmanuel handled lead vocals on most tracks.
Despite their live shows being much more visceral and powered by Bolivian percussionist Daniel Siles Alejandro Mendoza’s heavy hand, Young Magic seems to be in a slightly more introspective mode on Breathing Statues, wherein even pop songs like “Something in the Water” feel languid and slinky compared to most of Melt.
Yet in the details, the production is smart and crisp, still touching on varied elements and styles but grounding them with a generally more muted palette.
“Holographic” is the clear standout in terms of pop accessibility and crossover, and incidentally it’s also one of the only songs that features Emmanuel on lead vocals; its gorgeous harmonies and swooning pads make it the best track on the album’s second half, the other songs feeling like they recede slightly backward toward Melt’s more dense and abrasive sounds, with more vocal distortion and crustier drums. Other highlights are the gloomy arp ballad “Foxglove” (recalling the more morose electronic moments of Chromatics) and the shoegazy shimmer of “Ageless.” Like Melt, Breathing Statues clocks in at just over a half hour in length, so it’s concise but goes down effortlessly. Highly recommended.