Friday Full-Length: Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Magick Brother & Mystic Sister

Drawing on decades of progressive rock history, Barcelona’s Magick Brother & Mystic Sister released their self-titled debut full-length in June 2020 through Sound Effect Records and The John Colby Sect. Appropriate for posterity less than the moment of its arrival, perhaps, the record begins with “Utopia,” which works with deceptive efficiency for being so outwardly mellow in order to establish the patterns that much of what follows will inhabit and flesh out.

To wit, the casual swing of the rhythm from drummer/sometimes-vocalist Marc Tena and bassist/guitarist Xavier Sandoval, the jazzy and funk aspects brought to the proceedings from Maya Fernández on flute, and the cosmic undertow of Eva Muntada‘s synth, accompanied by her own non-lyric vocals, a kind of soothing “ahh” over the readily flowing movement. All throughout the 10-song/43-minute excursion, the band toys with these pieces one way or the other.

Muntada moves to keyboard here, Mellotron or organ there, piano somewhere along the line. Rhythms grow more or less insistent. Volume comes and goes, as does guitar and either or both of Muntada and Tena‘s voices, resulting in a rich and encompassing otherworldly, semi-psychedelic pastoralia. Dream-prog.

It is a sound full of nuance and detail that nonetheless ably carries the listener across its span, each piece of the entirety offering something of its own — the percussion in and sustained organ sweep of “Waterforms,” the watery post-Floydian turn of  the brief “The First Light,” the flute and bounce of “Yogi Tea” that serves as one of the album’s many reminders of classic prog’s affinity for funk, and so on — but not straying so far as to be disconnected from the whole.

Self-produced with mixing by Tena (who also mastered) and Sandoval, the precision and care with which Magick Brother & Mystic Sister craft and inhabit this world makes it all the more inviting to the audience. They’re not pushing you anywhere, but neither are they leaving you behind. It really is a matter of being invited along with them on this path, complex but organic like walking under a canopy of thoughtfully tangled tree branches and never getting all the way lost.

Their attention to detail and balancing of the mix is essential to the vibe, and in turn, the vibe is essential to the broader listening experience. Clever inclusions like the acoustic strum and cymbal washes in “Waterforms” and the pianoMagick Brother & Mystic Sister self titled and flute interplay in the quiet stretch of “Arroyo del búho” soon met by the creeping bassline, the folkish melodies topping “Echoes From the Clouds” even as the beneath them grows punchier in the track’s subtle volume build, or the Mellotron in “Movement 2” — which like “Waterforms” was released as a standalone single prior to the album — enhance the songs but are neither overwrought nor extraneous feeling.

This at times feels miraculous, considering how much is going on at any given moment, particularly as the hand percussion behind “Movement 2” comes through as so restless and the mellow drifter roll of the subsequent “Love Scene” daydreams into the funkier, penultimate “Instructions for Judgment Visions,” which is instrumental save for its singing flute and midpoint sample, which transitions into a spacious and droning bridge on the way to a jazzy culmination.

But this too is set up through the welcome provided by “Utopia” as voices, flute, guitar, bass, drums and synth combine, swell, recede and lay forth the general dynamic with which Magick Brother & Mystic Sister unfurls. There’s even room for a bit of showy classic guitar soloing. And by the time closer “Les Vampires” — also the longest inclusion at 6:40 — takes the funk of “Instructions for Judgment Visions” not necessarily to the place of’70s horror the title might lead one to believe, but to an open-feeling, breathy la-la-la jam and some Magma-style turns here and there before dropping out to begin its middle movement of Mellotron and flute exploration before again going to ground and letting the rim-click drums and voices carry through the final wash and last fadeout.

It’s as though the band couldn’t decide which part of a song they wanted to finish with, decided to go with all three, and because of the work they’d done over the nine tracks prior to establish a sound able to bend and shape into whatever they want it to express at any given moment, they made it work.

If you’ve got your watch out and you’re waiting for me to tell you how extra-admirable doing such a thing is for a debut full-length, I assure you that particular train is running on time. I’ll confess I don’t know the personal creative histories of the players involved here, but as they come together around these songs, there seems to be a definite ideal for which they are striving, and while their style inherently lends itself to growth — it’s not called progressive rock ironically; it progresses — I have a hard time imagining an ideal conceived that this record doesn’t meet on its own terms.

And the terms are very much its own. One can hear in the melodies and the sundry rhythms throughout lights and shades drawn from the aforementioned Pink Floyd as well as King CrimsonThe Beatles, Iberian folk, British folk, funk (have I mentioned funk? don’t you think it’s interesting that prog has always secretly wanted to dance?), and on and on, but what all of that coming together as it does in this material means is that Magick Brother & Mystic Sister take full advantage of the opportunity their first album represents in telling their listeners who they want to be.

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, the actual record, puts its rather significant aural ambitions front and center throughout its amorphous movement, and no matter how much it may seem to meander — and sometimes maybe actually do so — it is always guided by careful and attentive hands. It is music made with care. I would only hope that whatever the band do to follow, and whenever they might do it, that that central ethic is maintained. With that, they make it sound like the rest will just magically fall into place.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Up and down week. I guess most are. Ups: on Wednesday, The Patient Mrs. and I went to see Everything Everywhere All at Once in the theater, which was incredible. As movies go, that’s precisely my kind of absurd genius. And also it wasn’t “dark and gritty” like fucking everything these days, despite featuring a rampage’s worth of violence. I loved it and heartily recommend it. Also up, yesterday was the premiere of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and the season finale of Star Trek: Picard both, and while I’m not all the way thrilled with the way the latter wrapped in terms of some of the characters — I was hoping they’d give Rios a spinoff with Seven, Jurati, Raffi and Elnor — it was at least a satisfying conclusion to the story of the season. Also I streamed the Wo Fat record and the Kungens Män record and got to review Steak and Tau and the Drones of Praise, wrote and posted that Sasquatch album release news, AND time posting my Ufomammut interview to the release date as if to pretend somehow I actually know what I’m doing after 13-plus years of this site. I know. Doesn’t happen often.

Downs: Mostly kid-related, honestly. Dude and I had a bumpy week, right up to this morning getting him dressed for school. He’s been in OT for like two and a half years and the only reason I might not get bit on any given day is because I walk on fucking eggshells and/or give him whatever he wants. And he still tells me I’m terrible and he doesn’t love me pretty much every day, just because he can. And he can. We don’t punish, I actively try to stop myself from raising my voice. I just don’t know why putting on a pair of fucking socks needs to be so hard. I don’t know why I need to feel emotions about it. I don’t know why I need to be kicked. It fucking sucks. Yesterday morning? Sucked. Waiting for the bus? Sucks. This week is teacher appreciation week. Fucking hell. Don’t get me wrong — nobody — nobody — nobody — works harder than teachers and nobody — nobody — nobody — deserves to be billionaires more, but man, I felt like I could’ve used a little of that energy this week too and what I mostly got instead was pain in the ass. We went to Wal-Mart on Wednesday. What a wreck. Pulling shit off the shelves, trying to climb out of the cart. He’s like a fucking steamroller. Unstoppable.

And I feel all that shit. The Patient Mrs. brushes it off, looks at me like I’m an asshole. I can’t. When I have to ask a question five fucking times to get an answer, it’s maddening. So yeah, rough.

Fortunately I had the serene flute-laden prog of Magick Brother & Mystic Sister to clear my head over the last few days and fill it with luscious melody and classic bounce. The Patient Mrs. told me before she wasn’t digging the flute. She doesn’t like psychedelic sax either. Can’t win ’em all. Or sometimes really any.

Next week is Desertfest New York. All along I’ve been thinking it’s the week after, just like all along I’ve been thinking Freak Valley and Maryland Doom Fest are the same week in June when apparently they’re not. Whatever. I’m gonna go see bands. Hopefully hug humans. Take pictures. Write reviews. I will have a fair amount to say about the experience, I think, but I’ll try to keep focused on the thing itself.

Which is to say I’ve already begun the writing in my head.

Today’s Bandcamp Friday. The Obelisk Collective on Facebook has a killer thread once again with recommendations. Go forth and do the thing if you’re up for it.

That is to say, you’re not morally obligated. Sometimes cash is hard to come by, sometimes nothing hits you right. That’s okay too.

No Gimme show this week. Next week will be a special for DFNYC, so keep an eye out. Also next week I’ve got a full stream and review of the Ecstatic Vision going up on Tuesday and a bunch of other cool stuff that I don’t want to jinx by plugging.

Until then, great and safe weekend. Watch your head, hydrate, all that stuff. Back on Monday.


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One Response to “Friday Full-Length: Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Magick Brother & Mystic Sister

  1. J. says:

    Never heard of this band before. Just listened to the album and I’m blown away. So good.

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