Piano Magic is one of those groups who have managed to be quite prolific (they've recorded music for over 15 different labels since their inception in 1996) while also managing to be quite elusive. Comprised of four fellows who inhabit 3 different countries and a revolving cast of singers and fellow musicians, the group has a sound that's never quite the same from album to album and even song to song but still manages to contain a somewhat similar asthetic and overall feel. Writers Without Homes is no different, and its road to completion was a journey in and of itself (perhaps provoking the title of the release), split between 3 different studios, two producers, two engineers, and piles of home recordings and guest musicians.
The album opens up with "(Music Won't Save You From Anything But) Silence," and after about a minute of barely audible guitar and whispered vocals, some heavily reverbed drums and swirling guitars drop in over it all. If you turned it up in order to hear the very beginning, it comes as quite a shock to the senses, but the madly hypnotic guitar swells and lumbering bass drag you out over the open plains. Playing with that nice dynamic, it again drops off for some quiet vocals before bursting back out of the seams. "Postal" goes in nearly the opposite direction, with milky vocals from regular contributor Caroline Potter and a backdrop of what sounds like only treated piano and backwards guitar hums.
The middle section of the album features a wide variety of guest singers. "Modern Jupiter" features Tarwater, and the track retains a cold vibe that basically sounds like something which could have easily come off their recent Dwellers On The Threshold album. Likewise, "The Season Is Long" takes on a dark swagger and somewhat mimics the work of The Czars, of which John Grant adds vocals on the track. "Already Ghosts" features Paul Anderson from Tram, while the group even manages to pull 60's folk singer Vashti Bunyan out of a 30-year retirement to sing on "Crown Of The Lost."
As may be expected from reading the above, the album definitely moves around a lot in terms of styles. The jumps aren't so dramatic that it feels completely disjointed, as the whole release (as with releases in the past by the group) has an overall introspective and rather dark and moody feel. Hearing the release, I'm actually reminded by the classic multi-vocalist/collaboration of This Mortal Coil, which spread 3 great albums across the 4AD label about 15 years ago now. If you're a fan of more atmospheric work by the group, the changes may throw you off a bit, but underneath it's still the same group, and they've created another nice little ambient-pop album.