Boomkat Product Review:
The first solo release from Treader boss John Coxon (Spring Heel Jack, Spiritualized) is an intimate LP of improvised sound studies that audit his vast arsenal of collected techniques, using minimal instrumentation (turntables, guitar and skeletal percussion) to concoct fantastical fourth world soundscapes that cross paths with Derek Bailey, Andrew Pekler, Philip Jeck and Mike Cooper.
John Coxon has been through it all. He's one half of jazzy d'n'b duo Spring Heel Jack, a band who successfully navigated those notoriously choppy waters before pivoting into proper jazz and working with artists like Evan Parker, Han Bennink and Wadada Leo Smith. On top of this, he's also been a core member of Spiritualized since the mid-'90s, finding time in-between gigs to run the Treader label.
'Real Magic Vol. 1' was recorded in 2021, when Coxon was dealing with chronic tinnitus. Holed up in his studio, he decided to embark on a diaristic project, giving himself limitations that would allow him to overcome his preconceptions and work in a more direct, improvised way. He decided to work in mono, limiting his overdubs and post-production to capture the immediacy of the process, focusing on the playfulness of his setup, a minimal rig with guitar, percussive instruments like the kalimba, a CDJ and a turntable.
The most outstanding piece here are those that capture this methodology most succinctly. 'RM#7', for example, splices crackle and early electronic blips with surf rock guitar and dub-smudged bells, and 'RM#9' turns improvised guitar twangs into a cartoonish rattle of stick hits and animalistic scrapes. But there's plenty to keep us occupied in the gaps, too: 'RM#3' is a gentle bell interlude, 'RM#4' a meditative, rhythmic rattle of drums, bird calls, thumb piano and occasional vocal snippets, and 'RM#10' a Fahey-esque solo guitar jam woken up by careful, subtle FX. Quite lovely.