Mercurial World by Magdalena Bay Album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions


Mercurial World

Magdalena Bay

“Where there’s no true end to anything and everything comes from and goes to the same place: NOWHERE” Visit and you’ll be greeted by a myriad of flashing images, primitive animations and the overall aesthetic of a website that transports you back to the late 90s/early 2000s; even down to the sparkling backdrop that conjures up the heady days of MySpace (ahhhhh, a simpler time…whatever happened to Tom?).

The above mission statement is framed by a looping strike of lightning and the strobed NOWHERE flashing in capitals, in London bus red. Over the past 18 months LA-based duo Magdalena Bay have been using social media to dispense with a slew of short music videos, musings on the industry and meditations on all manner of different societal topics; from International Women’s Day to the clone craze of the early ninties to the indefinite lifespan of plants. This is all wrapped around a retro styling that invokes early VHS visuals and the dawn of the internet. This line of hazy visuals and peculiarities act as a vehicle for the twosome’s debut LP ‘Mercurial World’; a quirky electro-pop record that finds the pair asking the immortal question “what if” and pondering times as a construct. This thread is maintained throughout their primary offering, even down the track listing; ‘The End’ starts the LP and ‘The Beginning’ brings ‘Mercurial World’ to its close. I use close loosely, as the dying embers of ‘The Beginning’ are the opening glimmers of ‘The End’ meaning the record can be enjoyed as a continuous loop, therefore challenging the concept of time and how it is perceived.

There’s a playfulness to ‘Mercurial World’; this is illustrated by the group’s adopted pop angle, as songs hinge mostly on a bevy of keyboard motifs, danceable beats and Mica Tenenbaum’s child-like vocals. There are moments where the album glides into different sonic realms but at its core Magdalena Bay’s debut offering is rooted in pop, even when the pair (finalised by Matthew Lewin) usher in otherworldly noise on ‘Follow The Leader’ or light funk/show tune vibes on ‘Hysterical Us’. For a record that’s inspired by the existentialism, it’s no wonder the album has tendency to be over the top and a tad dramatic. ‘You Lose!’ is like a battle being raged between pop sensibilities and unabashed noise-mongering, as the duo’s vocalist muses “you say you wanna go far away/I wanna know the place you crave”. Then there’s the grandiose-orchestral-swoon-cum-interplanetary jazz of ‘Prophecy’, which has Tenenbaum coo “I always wanted/to believe/in some destiny/to guide me”. The garbled 8 bit distortion that rushes at the middle of the album’s eponymous track proves how much Magdalena Bay are happy to turn their music inside out and not go directly from A to B as far as their sonic journey goes. For all you Easter Egg hunters out there, there’s a subtle hat tip to Madonna in the track’s dying moments as Tenenbaum breathlessly murmurs “we’re living in a mercurial world” a la Madge’s ‘Material

We are indeed living in a ‘Mercurial World’ and not unlike times right now, Magdalena Bay’s debut album is an unpredictable jumble of all things happy, sad, frustrating and baffling, nicely packaged up in a little bubble.

Pre-order Mercurial World by Magdalena Bay HERE


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