Album Review: Magic Arm – Images Rolling

Vincent Coole 12 June 2013

A chamber orchestra in the living room of an isolated country house; an assortment of musical odds and ends scattered here and there; and a solitary figure in the middle of it all creating sounds designed to be snapshot of that momentary set-up – Images Rolling represents that very snapshot. As a result, Manchester’s Marc Rigelsford – Magic Arm – has created an evocative and inventive modern folk collection. Moreover, it is a record that delves or ‘escapes’ into a ‘psychedelica’, not just in its production but it’s very feel – a feel that so many artists today try to emulate but was once so effortless and natural of the time.

Rigelsford’s folk-psyche direction wasn’t entirely expected if judging by his debut Make Lists, Do Something; a quirky lo-fi electronica album that’s notable for a deconstructed version of ‘Daft Punk is Playing at my House’. Yet, after having various instruments donated by friends and moving into a half derelict three storey house, Magic Arm’s new direction was more than a little fated. More intentionally, the record’s character is imbued with the range of influences Rigelsford employs; from Simon & Garfunkel to The Shins, early Pink Floyd to Arcade Fire. Brian Wilson’s influence on contemporary artists continues here; in particular Smile’s acid workshop creation which is evoked in spirit, though often in sound, Images Rolling is closer to the breezy lo-fi character of Smiley Smile or Friends. On the whole, Wilson’s DIY approach to studio recording is employed most effectively on opener ‘Put your Collar Up’; an understated tour-de-force which opens with a quartet of strings, then throws in guitar breaks and trumpet solos beneath a hummable melody. The album’s highlight is ‘Warning Sign’ which begins with a piano intro not unlike Sigur Ros’ ‘Hoppipolla’ before falling into a relaxed groove provided by stairwell drums, and layered with synths, trumpets and Rigelsford’s best Syd Barrett impression.

The record’s strong first half isn’t quite matched by the second half, and the album closes almost too suddenly. But brevity can be a fine thing, particularly when compared to an over-long collection such as the ‘official’ soundtrack of the summer, Daft Punk’ Random Access Memories. And when Magic Arm was once name-checking them, he’s now sharing their objective to reject digital recording methods, embrace the organic, and evoke music he cherishes. The primitivism of Images Rolling’s creation, and the various influences it carries, is expressed acutely and with enough aplomb to make it an alternative summer soundtrack. It expresses a summer feel that is a sleepy, happy and hazy one – the one so often conjured up in sentimental remembrance, childhood memories, or indeed, when a piece of music instantly evokes that very feeling.

Vincent Coole