Neon Magus, Watching the Watcher | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Neon Magus, Watching the Watcher 

Album Review

Published July 14, 2010 at 5:12 a.m.


(Aether Everywhere, CD)

In the liner notes of their debut Watching the Watcher, Neon Magus offer the following explanation: “We found these sounds beneath the ash and sand.” And then, an advisory: “Play at maximum volumes, equipped with headphones.”

That’s good advice.

Freakout jams, sludge-metal riffs and tribal drumbeats propel the Burlington band through myriad crescendos and serve as the main ingredients in this psychedelic, post-rock stew. The sound is epic and overblown — like an explosion in your brain. But it is also intimate, as if Neon Magus are playing only for you. That duality was surely aided by renowned producer Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Godspeed You! Black Emperor), who recorded the band at fabled Montréal studio Hotel2Tango.

The 12-minute “Chakote” is an early highlight. It opens with vocalist and saxophonist Mollie Coons whispering in a made-up (I think) language, before a swirl of feedback and a tribal drum slowly work the song into a frenzy. There is no climax, however. Rather, the song oozes to a conclusion, as guitarist Will Ryan unleashes low, sludgy power chords and Parker Ryan’s wah-affected trumpet flutters atop, like a butterfly trying to escape an inferno.

The following track, “Sun Machine,” is aptly named, as a wall of sound explodes roughly two minutes in — hopefully from your jacked-up headphones. Exquisitely distorted chords underpin exultant trumpet blasts, sounding as if they could thrust the sun up. Another tirade of tribal beats and chants follows, this time concluding in a blast of punk fury.

After a slight lull in the two-part “Andromeda,” Neon Magus return with awesome might for the 13-minute closer, “Ceremony.” The track opens on Josh Laclair’s eerie synthesizers and thick, fuzzed-out bass drones from Dan Peavey. Meanwhile, Coons croons ethereally over the top. Another tribal section segues into a massive wall of distortion, with Coons again swooning gorgeously.

Like the album’s best tracks before it, “Ceremony” is made up of a series of beautiful moments that justify Neon Magus’ magical, luminous, ballsy moniker. And it is moments, rather than whole songs, that define Watching the Watcher. It would be nice if NM were better able to meld these moments together. But, while loaded with potential, this is still a young band. It is more fun to think they have stumbled upon something fantastic deep inside the earth, and now they need to learn how to use it.

Neon Magus appear at The Monkey House on Friday, July 16.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Henry Soule


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Album Review

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation