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Piano Magic

As mentioned in my review for their previous Writers Without Homes album, Piano Magic is a group that is prolific to say the least. They're recorded a slew of EP releases, many full lengths (Disaffected is their sixth proper), and many songs for compilations and other ephemera. The core of the band is four fellows (3 of whom are French, one of which is English) and the rotating door for collaborators and guests is always moving.

This newest release continues all of the traditions of the band while at the same time rocking out harder than they ever have in places. The opener "You Can Hear The Room" shuffles along with reverbed live drumming and eerie synths as desolate-sounding guitars drift in the background while singer Glen Johnson breaths out vocals that like many other tracks from the group seem to focus on spirits. As the track progresses, it gains power, eventually exploding with huge drums and layers of woozy guitars. The whole track sounds like it could easily fit into a David Lynch film (particularly the slow-burn guitar soundscapes of Mullholland Drive).

"Love & Music" picks up the pace and again mingles buzzing synths with guitars while minimal percussion and sharp attacking bass keep a crisp backbone. On the title track "Disaffected," the group brings in electronic programming and the guest vocals of singer Angéle David-Guillou (of Klima) and the album suddenly changes direction as the slightly downcast electronic pop track chugs along. Like nearly all of their albums, the group isn't afraid to try different things, and they've been creating music for long enough that they pull it off most of the time. "Theory Of Ghosts" blends electronic programming, pretty guitar melodies, and subtle waves of synths into an odd spoken-word track that somehow doesn't come off as pretentious.

The album is more hit-or-miss during the latter half, and the group seem to lose their focus the most when they start encorporating more electronic elements. "Deleted Scenes" finds Johnson singing rather monotone vocals over synth arpeggios and programmed beats in a track that comes off like a weak New Order clone while on the opposite side of the equation "The Nostalgist" mixings interesting tom-heavy drums with more dreary guitars and excellent understated vocals. As with several of their releases, Disaffected at the same time contains some of the groups best songs, as well as some rather mediocore ones. On the whole, though, the release still manages to average out as pretty good, and if you've heard the group in the past and enjoyed them, you're not going to go wrong.

Rating: 7