Mandrake the Magician


Another astonishing triumph of immaculate pop music with a twist from Ergo Phizmiz, the uncategorisable UK genius who may be known to some of you from his occasional forays with People Like Us, when the two of them delve deep into the world of playful collage-editing and emerge with subversive documents fit to drive many listeners half-mad with their impossible juxtapositions. His album The Peacock (CARE IN THE COMMUNITY RECORDINGS) is not a collage exercise though, rather an album displaying his flair for constructing odd and eccentric songs that dazzle with their sheer compaction and attractive production sheen. The compaction is mostly in the lyrics – scarce 30 seconds pass by without the listener being rewarded with a flurry of colourful images and surreal vistas, rushing past the retinas with the vividness of a dream.

The production “sheen” I allude to is not to suggest these songs are especially easy to listen to, but rather that Phizmiz has developed an ingenious method that somehow combines a souped-up DIY/indie aesthetic with the lushness of a psychedelic record from 1967. He does this entirely on his own terms, without once slipping into pastiche or fey whimsy. There is much compacted musical and lyrical detail to be unpacked, savoured and examined, and it confirms something about the phenomenal memory capabilities of the creator. Vicki Bennett reports that, when asked to contribute to her Slow Radio project “Radio Boredcast” in 2012, Phizmiz was able to recite and sing the entire contents of several Gilbert & Sullivan operettas from memory. In the case of The Peacock, it’s as though he’s already memorised the entire contents of the LP and is so familiar with it he can sing and play it on demand – just get the tapes rolling and hit the red light.

I say this to account for the natural, unforced vibe that you get from this record – and given his highly mannered singing voice, that’s saying something. Hopefully he is not one of those egocentric rock musicians who waste months of recording time in the studio attempting to assemble a multi-track masterpiece, only to end up with an over-laboured and overcooked dud. Instead, I would like to think Phizmiz could make a record like this in 12 hours, tape machines and microphones bending to his will as easily as daffodils. Also perhaps noteworthy that the parent label who sponsored this release have also put out a record by another certified genius of underground pop, R. Stevie Moore. One of the tracks was even released as a single, ‘The Tinker Song’. Lovely! From 15 July 2014.