The New Magic: Bird’s Eye View

Last year, Norwegian multi-instrumentalist/producer, Martin van Houtum released his debut single under the monicker, The New Magic. “The Elevator” was called by IndieTapes a “smooth and laid-back indie/psych rock track.” When van Houtum turned the promise of that single track into a full-length album, “The Elevator” gets relegated to the final track on the eight song album. It is an odd spot to find an album’s lead single but Bird’s Eye View has plenty to before and in addition to “The Elevator.”

For the recording of the album, van Houtum assembled a crew of performers including vocalist Per Kamfjord, drummer Filip Zenon Ramberg, double bassist Teodor Elstad and saxophonist Morten Smith Lien. If some of those instruments sound more like something you’d find in a jazz quartet than an “indie/psych rock” band, there is a reason for that. It is not a stretch to say that much of Bird’s Eye View is a jazz album.

Opening track, “Moving Sky” clocks in at a robust seven-plus minutes. The first four minutes have the feel of a traditional meditative pop/rock song in similar vein to acts like Air. A pleasing but repetitive arpeggio is joined by drums and guitar to create the backdrop for Per Kamfjord’s vocals. The performance is very steady, sort of slow and solemn. The last three minutes of the track are where things get “jazzy.” The arpeggio continues to repeat but most of the instruments are stripped away except for some atmospherics. A dissonant electric guitar note ushers in more experimental drums and something that can only be described as “whale sound”-esque. It feels reminiscent of avant-garde jazz quartet, The Bad Plus.

Many of the tracks have these bonus “jazzy” endings. After the meat of “Sink/Soar Forever,” the last minute plus of the song sounds like spa music that maybe pumped into a room with essential oils while you await your masseuse. The album’s second single, “New Day,” strangely buried second to last on the album, is a harpsichord-filled track featuring a loose shuffle drum beat. The long extended syllables sung by Per Kamfjord works almost like an instrument of its own rather than a top line. The track wraps up tidily in three minutes but the last minute and a half is dedicated to an extended guitar solo with light piano playing it out.

Untrained ears might hear The New Magic’s style as jam band-esque but with the long, storied history of Norwegian jazz musicians like Erlend Apneseth and Christian Meaas Svendsen, it is no surprise that Martin van Houtum and company would be inspired by them. It makes every song on Bird’s Eye View an interesting and continually evolving listen.

Rating: 7.0/10

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