Three years on from their Nigel Godrich-produced A Different Ship, Brooklyn’s Here We Go Magic are back with their fourth LP release. Highly ambient and still sitting somewhere between future pop and indie, Be Small takes “a smaller approach to production”. Self recorded by the band, the album is comprised of “overtly major and optimistic” songs according to frontman Luke Temple.
There is a soft touch optimism to the record, a blissed out feel to the overarching melodies and light vocals. Tracks are driven forward by repetitive programmed beats, often grounded in unrelenting rhythms. Falling pushes onwards with pulsing drum pads and effects driven vocals that have something of Prince’s groove about them. Building onto the constant motifs – like a chirruping synth – Here We Go Magic layer and meander through a sort of stream of consciousness. With no familiar arrangements, hypnotic feels give way to frenzied guitar strumming and a 60’s inspired chorused vocal. Playing that theme out over a good few minutes, Here We Go Magic definitely don’t believe it cutting things short.
Title track Be Small is psyched out prelude, mixing chillwave and folk in almost equal parts. Temple’s light baritone is reminiscent of Auditorium, but without the playful side. There is an pastoral feel to the track, full of glittering instrumentation and accent synths. It feels like the kind of “oddity” that Bowie had in mind. Again with a drawn out, jammed out interlude around the lyric refrain, this exercise occasionally becomes a little too repetitive. One of the most interesting tracks on the album is Candy Apple, propelled by a deeper groove than other tracks and funk inspired riff. Whether it’s the “candy” reference, or the palpable New York feel, there is something of the Velvet Underground to this track, richer and decisive in its arrangement. Here We Go Magic also manage to achieve bustling soundscapes that somehow resemble city sounds without resorting to effects; sliding vocals like speeding cars, industrial beats and chorused vocals that could almost be car horn blasts.
There is a certain indulgence in the lengthy soundscapes that make up Be Small, and also a certain meandering quality that defies structure. Quite often with interesting effect, and effective moments, like the DJ Shadow feel interlude Wishing Well, but occasionally it becomes wearisome next to the repetitive nature of the songs. A little too carried away inside its own construction, Be Small showcases virtuoso musicianship and writing, but is sometimes slightly too impressed by its own cleverness.