16 Jan 2015 — Henry Schiller
To claim that Magic Island's "So Tender" is more aurally daring or sophisticated than bedroom pop might seem a bit disingenuous. What Magic Island (AKA Emma Czerny) has crafted is, first and foremost, a sparkling piece of pop music. But when we take the track by its sonic roots it's easy to see that Czerny has drawn from an unusual combination of musical ouvre, and that “So Tender” is - despite the safety net of pop it shrouds itself in - actually pretty weird.
Czerny seems to be drawing from two distinct pools. On the one hand, we have the kind of sugary - if deceptively sparese - synthpop born out of a music industry realization that synthesizers weren't just for the bedroom dwelling intellectual set. On the other hand: the heavier, artier, ethereal-wave fare that stomped the 1980s to death in northern Britain and Iceland.
The cheap Casio keyboards that feature prominently on “So Tender” were presumably designed to, if nothing else, emulate the wave forms produced on the more sophisticated machines used by by people like Brian Eno and Vangelis, and later, to less overwrought ends, by groups like Soft Cell and Yazoo. On the other hand, Czerny's vocals keep a spiritual distance from the kind of music that her songwriting would naturally put her in league with (somewhere on the line between FKA Twigs and AlunaGeorge), incorporating instead the more piercing bombast of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser.
The result is a satisfying conflict of intimacy and spaciousness; music that hooks you like all good pop music should but keeps you tangled up in its weirdness.
Magic Island's Wasted Dawn EP is out February 3 on Mansion and Millions.
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