Convention and genre cannot contain Marc Rigelsford, AKA Magic Arm. He is a musical Harry Houdini, slipping the binds of common expectation to deliver a debut EP, Outdoor Games, which fully warrants that much used and abused term, eclectic. There is a fearlessly ambitious imagination at work on these seven tracks; psych-folk, Casio-pop, lo-fi electronica, and much more, the unifying factor here is excellence.
The delicate guitar picking of the title track is soon accompanied by piano and echoing, ethereal voices, the initial whimsy giving way to a feel of wide-eyed, ecstatic wonder. And that’s just for starters. The woozy psychedelia of ‘People Need Order’ recalls classic Beta Band, the pristine melody deliciously compromised by freaked-out keys and vigorous drum breaks. By rights ‘I Want You To Want Me’ shouldn’t work, but somehow it makes delirious sense, the most basic of bontempi beats merging with church organ and yes, paddle faster, I hear banjo.
According to Rigelsford, ‘D.A.Q.’ (Don’t Ask Questions) is his “uninformed take on electronica”. Well, in this instance ignorance truly is bliss. The guitars are backed by some rather sinister beats, eventually breaking into the hypnotic chorus and the chanted refrain “don’t ask questions”. It could be the soundtrack to a programme of mind control, with Magic Arm demanding our unquestioning loyalty and, on this form, deserving it. From the sinister to the sublime, ‘You Should Know’ provides some sweetly meandering folk musings.
Proceedings come to a close with the eastern-tinged sound of ‘Move Out’ and delicious déjà vu of ‘Reprise’. Recorded at home on Rigelsford’s computer, _Outdoor Games _has a lovely ramshackle feel; it sounds naïve, but is all the more affecting for it. It is, in short, a work of understated magnificence.
8Francis Jones's Score