The music venue is behind a door marked with nothing but a graffiti sign, a small table is the ticket counter, there are no windows but a wood stair case that sits besides the bar goes up to the bathroom and a second floor sitting area that over looks the stage. The stage is small but comfortable and huge gobs of paper, crinkled together, spill from just above the back wall and up to the ceiling like cotton clouds. There’s a photo booth that takes credit card, and if you walk too far, there is no paint on the walls, and a sign that tells you you’ve gone the wrong way for the bathroom. Turn around, and you won’t end up somewhere lost in the building.
This is the first stop on a North American tour for Young Magic and Quilt. Melt, Young Magic’s full length album was constructed in various locations around the world, with various instruments of the world, and musicians from different points of origin in the world. That is to say it’s worldly. They’ve settled in New York for now and it’s where they’re starting their tour.
“I find New York really inspiring,” front man Isaac Emmanuel says, “It’s like there’s no structure or flow to most of the architecture. I love how the architecture takes on a particularly individualist stance, like the buildings are jostling for space.”
A lot of Melt is an electronic landscape, where seemingly disparate parts come together to create a unique sound. Which is why the band fits comfortably in this venue. It feels small but imposing, it’s obscure and very difficult to find, but it asserts a personality and charm.
It doesn’t seem accidental.
“There are so many things that inspired the concept of [Melt] We met so many interesting people, and saw so many beautiful parts of the world thatâ€¦ I found myself gushing with ideas and a lot of the time I just wanted to find a cornerâ€¦ and to get lost in a recording bubble for hours.”
The drums on stage are presumably not for Young Magic. Instead the frontman tries to tape up a white sheet against the wall. Before even setting up his instruments, he walked into the middle of the bar with a chair, and set up a projector. The white sheet wouldn’t stay up though, and so they dimmed the lights and the band played in near darkness as images of sepia toned dancers played in the background, prairie landscapes unraveled, and far away human figures simply were.
One of my concerns about the live show, was that the complexity of Melt would poorly translate to the physical limitations of two people only being able to play so many instruments at once. Singer Isaac Emmanuel’s background and childhood fondness for making rhythms and sounds by “walking around the house hitting anythingâ€¦ with spoons and forks,” is captured synthetically. He captures the sounds of the album, created “with instruments or objects lying around houses, or in parks, or on buses or trains,” synthetically and with a mad man’s gusto. Where Melati, the female vocalist and guitar slinging member, provides an ethereal haunting quality to the songs, Emmanuel provides the thumping intensity. He strikes four electronic pads with bass drum sticks, while feeling the music that he’s making, and adding his own smooth vocals.
The concert was danceable but intelligent. This wasn’t a button pushing DJ, but instead a producer making psychedelic grooves where the story has to be felt because it isn’t being hand fed to the listener. Your ears and your moving body interpret the story behind Young Magic’s sound, rather than your mind processing lyrics. Young Magic’s music is better felt and experienced than dissected.
“The vocals,” Emmanuel says, “are treated as more of a feel thing or another instrumentâ€¦ floating in and out and creating another layer.”
Young Magic has one more stop in NYC, going to the intimate Mercury Lounge on July 29th.