Magic Trick: Ruler of the Night

Music Reviews
Magic Trick: Ruler of the Night

It’s easy to get lost in the catalog of a musician as prolific as Tim Cohen. The Fresh & Onlys frontman has also contributed to bands including (but hardly limited to) Sonny & The Sunsets, Black Fiction and Amocoma, while keeping a fairly steady flow of solo material first as Feller Quentin, then under his given name, and now at the front of a new band: Magic Trick.

Picking up where last year’s Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick left off, Ruler of the Night solidifies a lineup that includes Cohen, James Kim (of Kelley Stoltz’s band), Alicia Vanden Heuvel (of The Aislers Set) and Noelle Cahill. And with the solidified lineup comes a more realized sound, trading the previous record’s dry, jangly pop with a lusher, more fluid presentation.

This is immediately apparent, as “Ruler of The Night” opens the album with a brooding piano phrase and Cohen’s languid crooning: “We are the hounds/ Of love,” he sings, joined quickly by the wordless voices of Heuvel and Cahill and a prodding acoustic guitar strum. As the song builds to incorporate echoey bass drum kicks and sleigh bells, it swells into a rich ballad that balances dreamy surrealism with resonant sonic clarity. First single “Torture” follows suit, gathering a mesh of keys and background coos, ringing guitar and a firm, but unobtrusive current of percussion.

But lest this turn into a gently lysergic wallowing, Cohen brood-crooning his mortal concerns and comparing his longing for a lover to corporal punishment, there are more animated tracks. “Invisible at Midnight” layers upbeat folk over a programmed beat and distant synth melody that betrays Cohen’s not-so-secret love of hip hop. “Angel Dust” tilts into a country-rock sway clouded by Summer of Love psychedelia.

Still, Cohen’s low vocal, which he often employs unadorned by bold dynamic shifts or over-emotive inflections, provides a support beam of low-key slacker rock, malleable enough to mesh with his easy absorption of psych-rock and shoegaze, country and R&B influences. At times, Magic Trick hews close to the Fresh & Onlys’ casual-fit psych-rock, but when Cohen’s free to lean into his outside interests—as on the warped pop of “Same People”—this band promises even bolder moves in the future. For now, though, it’s enough to take a dip in Cohen’s latest pool of songs, where melodies float like syrup in cool, clear water.

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