Given that Piano Magic’s Glen Johnson is one-third of 2L’s nerve centre, it was only a matter of time before he gave fans a special reason to subscribe to the label. The lo-fi – but far from scrappy – Home Recordings is emphatically a very special reason for Piano Magic fanatics to be signed-up. Whilst lesser bands with the same amount of miles on the clock would only seek to revisit past ‘hits’ in stripped-down form to vainly revive flagging creativity, Johnson and co. do it out of pure love for intimate recording environments, to demonstrate the adaptability of consistently strong songwriting and to connect the latter-day live-centric line-up of the group with the early ethos of 1999’s sublime DIY-built Low Birth Weight. With Angèle David-Guillou taking on far more mic duties than on last year’s Ovations LP and Johnson re-voicing songs once given over to other guest singers, just in vocal terms Home Recordings is a dream come true for fans. Adding more electro-acoustic and more loosely-framed arrangements into the mix makes for results that are frequently breathtaking and radically re-calibrating.
Highlights are hard to pinpoint when so many of the ten tracks here ooze with unbridled beauty and alluring atmospherics. That said, gorgeous Angèle-sung deconstructions of “Dark Ages” (previously cut with Vashti Bunyan), “Amongst The Books An Angel” (formerly given a tentative Johnson singing spot) and “Incurable” (transposed from a pulsing electronic frame to a minimalist piano-driven setting) are truly transcendental. Elsewhere, Johnson-led sparse re-workings of “A Theory Of Ghosts” and “When I’m Done (This Night Will Fear Me)” make fine but not forced links with his parallel solo career. When Glen and Angèle effectively find themselves duetting, the intimacy almost feels like an intrusion for the listener, as heard on the Young Marble Giants-meets-The XX reincarnation of “Disaffected” and the dark-folk refashioning of “I Have Moved Into The Shadow.” Interestingly, perhaps only the new takes on “Snowfall Soon” and “I Am Sub-librarian” don’t quite work as well in retranslation, but this probably because their earlier appearances on the aforementioned Low Birth Weight were near-impossible to improve upon anyway. Rounded-off with a previously unheard new instrumental piece – “When You Are Gone” – Home Recordings is, as a whole, one holy grail rarity that will indeed be worth slow-to-know Piano Magic followers fighting for, in the eBay trenches, for many years to come.