Here We Go Magic | A Different Ship
Most likely to: pass by if you don’t jump aboard.
Back in the ‘60s, Steve Reich and Phillip Glass spearheaded the Minimalist movement in classical music, wherein music was stripped of such fripperies as melodic development and compositions with a beginning, middle and end, and was instead reduced to basic repetitive patterns. It was a radical approach at the time, which famously prompted one theater goer to approach the stage during one of Glass’ performances and demand to know how much money it would take to get him to stop.
Minimalism has been absorbed into the mainstream since that time and is common throughout film and commercial scores. But while it has definitely made its presence felt in pop music, minimalism still feels kind of odd. In a medium built around the pop hook, the single-minded Minimalist approach of bands like the Glass-produced post-punkers Polyrock, the motoric krautrock of Neu! or the crazy rhythms of The Feelies remain oddities.
There are few current bands that feel more Glass-indebted than Brooklyn’s Here We Go Magic. Since 2009, Luke Temple and company have been injecting Glass and Reich-influenced Minimalist structures into folk-pop and ending up with a style that sometimes sounds like a Grizzly Bear album being listened to on a cross-country freight train – Here We Go Magic albums are full of delicately pretty folk melodies riding atop an insistent, non-stop klak-klak-klak-klak rhythm.
For instance, “Hard To Be Close” – the first proper song on A Different Ship, the band’s third full-length – sounds like a Nick Lowe vocal track that accidentally got matched with a Feelies backing track in the studio. The vocal is a nice, melodic lament that wouldn’t sound out of place on any easygoing Americana album, while the backing track keeps shifting from one lockstep rhythm to another as instruments come and go in the mix and backing vocals that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Glass’ soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi. The effect is an odd but pleasing one.
Elsewhere, Here We Go Magic sound like Talking Heads if they’d played the songs from Remain in Light in the style of Little Creatures on “I Believe in Action,” mix mid-period R.E.M. with straight-up Glass soundtrack stylings on “Alone But Moving” and take a nice lazy folk-rock stroll straight to into outer space on “Over the Ocean.”
A Different Ship was produced by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich – who requested the job after he and Thom Yorke caught the band in concert – and it turns out to have been a reasonably inspired match-up between band and producer. Godrich reins in the sometimes over-caffeinated nervous energy of earlier Here We Go Magic albums and applies an even tone to the entire album. He doesn’t try to tame any of the band’s eccentricities – songs like “How Do I Know” still feel like the listener has gotten himself trapped on a runaway train that doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop anytime soon (a feeling helped along by Temple’s frequent train whistle whoops during the proceedings) – but he frames them to their best advantage. The songs on A Different Ship might sometimes feel like runaway trains, but they’re runaway trains filmed by David Lean or John Ford.
Any given song by Here We Go Magic feels like it’s got somewhere to get to and doesn’t feel the need to let the listener know where that destination might be – they can come along for the ride if they want, but the band’s not going to make any detours for them. That sense of urgency and the promise of reaching some destination somewhere make booking a trip on A Different Ship a good investment.
Check out the video for “Alone But Moving”: