Boomkat Product Review:
2019 marks the 20th anniversary of ‘Low Birth Weight,’ the second album by Piano Magic, then a loose collective of musicians centred around founder songwriter, Glen Johnson. Though a year later, the collective would take shape as a bona fide internationally touring group, in 1999, Johnson had one foot in his native Nottingham and the other in his new home of London where, finding himself label manager at Rough Trade Records, also became highly prolific, releasing his own records across a myriad of micro-labels (Che, Wurtlitzer Jukebox, Darla, Rocket Girl, etc).
"By his own admission, ‘Low Birth Weight,’ owes much to the East London experimental group, Disco Inferno who, embracing sampling technology, attempted to turn pop music inside out. By 1995, the Inferno had burnt out but Johnson remained inspired by their playful, subversive manifesto and thus, the album here, partly produced by “Nottingham’s own Martin Hannett,” Martin Cooper, is difficult to pigeonhole either at the end of the millennium or even now. Drum kit signals are fed through a tiny amp literally inside a cardboard box; breathing is employed for rhythms; kick drums are replaced with broken glass; there’s a ragbag of tablas, huge slap back delay and phase, theremin, shortwave radio, and more.
Aside from the DI benchmarks, ‘Low Birth Weight’ bears the marks of an infatuation with the dreampop of the time – the guitar saturated in delay and overdrive – inspired by the likes of AR Kane and Kitchens Of Distinction and not the more languid “shoegaze,” which has oft been levelled at LBW.
There’s a revolving door of guests on the album, including Pete Astor (The Loft/The Weather Prophets) on a cover of Disco Inferno’s ‘Waking Up’; Simon Rivers of The Bitter Springs supplies lyrics and voice to ‘Crown Estate’ and ‘Dark Secrets Look For Light’; Jen Adam, then an American art student on a year’s placement in London, writes and sings ‘The Fun Of The Century,’ a personal account of being pushed off a roof at a party by someone she thought a close friend.
‘Low Birth Weight’ is undoubtedly of its time, though undoubtedly more playful and literary than much of the music made during the late 90’s and a fascinating bridge between dream pop and experimental electronic music."