Following hot on the trail first ventured last year with mission statement Kiss That Wealth Goodbye EP, Belfast’s exmagician – the duo of former Cashier no. 9 co-pilots Danny Todd and James Smith – have now gone one further and given us a full-length collection of engaging, pulsating psych-rock gems. Scan The Blue, their first foray into the long player as exmagician, sets out a stall of lavish, swirling tracks that, over the course of the record, showcase a newfound (or perhaps re-found) penchant for intense, bellowing arrangements and extended, expertly arranged wig-outs.
Released via Bella Union, it seems that Todd and Smith have found a good home for their kaleidoscopic, expansive sound. Tracks like ‘Bend With The Wind’ and ‘Desperado’ forgo the heavier shades of their debut EP, while reimagining elements of the psychedelic, introspective jams found on both that same EP and here in the form of ‘Place Your Bets’ – expertly crafted, but dripping with garage-rock idiosyncrasies.
There are quieter moments at play here too that are no less impressive. ‘Feet Don’t Fail’ is bright, optimistic and features lush harmonies that, accompanied with an americana-styled guitar progression, makes for blissful listening – think Beck at his most subdued. Title track, and album closer ‘Scan The Blue’ operates in a similar manner, but crescendos in washed out guitars and atmospheric pad sounds. Reverb-soaked and saturated in a delicate, melodic charm, it’s a woozy, ethereal dream come to life in stereo.
In between, though, is were things get raw. Grainy, raucous acid-tinged rock by way of ‘Wild Eyes’ and the mechanical jaunt of ‘The Rot Sets In’ are sensational cuts from an album that, while including 75% of the material from its little brother, has enough meat on its bones to satisfy. Scan The Blue is arguably the strongest Irish release of the year so far.