Brooklyn-based six-piece chamber band Cuddle Magic is, for me, supremely hard to describe. In only the best way. They’re sharing their unique musical gifts at 10 p.m. tomorrow night, October 11, in the WestCo Café with Northampton band The Sun Parade. Bring your hearts, bring your friends.
As I, bogged down by various midterms, listened through Cuddle Magic’s four-album discography (2008’s self-titled album, 2010’s Picture, 2012’s Info Nympho, and an album released in April with toy piano player Phyllis Chen), I tried and failed to classify this band as one thing. I tried and failed to put them into a box. Instead, I have two pages of poorly scrawled notes about my favorite tracks that are very specific, but when taken as a collective, only really speak to their uniqueness. Read after the jump for videos, tracks, and other attempts to describe this eclectic band.
Cuddle Magic is Ben Davis (vocals, guitar, bass), Dave Flaherty (drums), Cole Kamen-Green (trumpet, aux percussion), Christopher McDonald (vocals, keys), Kristin Slipp (vocals, bells, keys), and Alec Spiegelman (vocals, bass clarinet). Cuddle Magic’s bandcamp page describes their tunes as “dance listening music that unfolds in waves of vocal harmony, contrapuntal woodwinds, dense wordplay, and overlapping rhythmic cycles.” Wesleyan’s own Gabe Doss ‘17, who was involved in setting this shindig up, told me in an email that “Cuddle Magic is composed of six multi-instrumentalists who are all professionally trained jazz musicians, but they write weird pop songs with beautiful melodies and some folk influence.”
Their music feels sometimes like chamber pop (appealing to my classical sensibilities) but also sometimes like a sad folk song, or delicate math pop. With each new layer of complex instrumentation and lyricism comes another great song that creeps in and takes you by surprise. Their sound is all at once comforting and complicated, light and melancholy, listless and rooted.
This video, this beautiful video, is of “Pretty Thing,” a song off of Cuddle Magic’s latest album with Phyllis Chen. I sort of just want to stare at it for hours.
Now I’m going to transcribe some of the things I scrawled on the backs of old assignments while listening to Cuddle Magic on a weird, rainy day:
“‘An Eye For An Eyeful,’ off the newest album with Phyllis Chen, really shows off diverse instrumentation as well as this band’s proven mastery of the best rhythms ever, basically.”
“‘Baby Girl’ off Info Nympho is kind of like Battles? But less abrasive, and with great use of 7/8. I listened to it first while reading through some emails and was forced to give it my full attention. And then to listen to it a few more times.”
“‘Autobiographies’ is almost rap-like, and when you listen to it for the first time, you’re not sure where it’s headed, melodically speaking. And then it all comes together, seamlessly. My favorite line from this song is, ‘They say Ovid hates it to be quoted saying lah-di-dah.’ It made me laugh.”
“Brimstone Overture’ [from Picture] is super groovy, with intertwining pizzicato and piano and a great drum line and great syncopation all around. Then there’s 30 seconds of what could be a glitch pop divertimento at the very end, like a modulating harpsichord.”
“‘Ring of Gold” [from Cuddle Magic] feels like a sonic representation of a winter day spent nicely inside with someone special. Very much cuddle magic.”
Decide for yourself what Cuddle Magic means to you tomorrow night. They perform with The Sun Parade, who are described on their website thus: “Chris Marlon Jennings and Jefferson Lewis are two roving Northern gents who blaze their guitars and sing lusty pop songs of their own brand. At times incanting psychedelia, Nirvana, and disco, they find their roots in bluegrass and the magic of The Beatles. Jared Gardner and Noam Schatz are the heavy rhythm backbone that makes “folk/rock” really rock.” Here’s their newest video:
Date: Saturday, October 11
Time: 10 PM
Place: WestCo Café