PURSON — Desire's Magic Theatre

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PURSON - Desire's Magic Theatre cover
3.98 | 6 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2016

Filed under Non-Metal


1. Desires Magic Theatre (6:11)
2. Electric Landlady (3:53)
3. Dead Dodo Down (3:10)
4. Pedigree Chums (3:58)
5. The Sky Parade (5:16)
6. The Window Cleaner (3:28)
7. The Way It Is (2:42)
8. Mr. Howard (4:08)
9. I Know (4:21)
10. The Bitter Suite (7:11)

Total Time 44:18

Bonus Tracks:

11. Unsure Overture
12. I Know (Acoustic)
13. The Sky Parade (Acoustic)


- Rosalie Cunningham / Vocals, Guitars
- George Hudson / Guitars
- Justin Smith / Bass
- Sam Shove / Keyboards
- Raphael Mura / Drums

About this release

Released by Spinefarm, April 29th 2016.

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

We'd seen strong hints on The Circle and the Blue Door that the retro stylings of Purson included a strong interest in the prog-psych boundary - that intriguing sound that existed in the late 1960s and early 1970s when progressive rock still hadn't quite disentangled itself from the artier end of the psychedelic scene.

On Desire's Magic Theatre, Rosalie Cunningham and her cohorts steer Purson away from the heavier territory of their debut album in order to more deeply explore the different nooks and crannies of that era, whilst delivering an album which applies modern production values and the benefit of some five decades' hindsight to the material. Jazz, Tull-esque flute, disorienting psychedelia and a small epic in the closing Bitter Suite finds Purson going from strength to strength. Due to its exploratory nature, it doesn't quite feel like it's hanging together as well as the debut album did, but the musical evolution on display is appreciable.
When I first came across Purson a couple of years back, particularly with the name I was expecting another outfit in the vein of the current trend of female fronted occult heavy rock bands. I think one of the first things I heard was Leaning On A Bear from their debut “The Circle And The Blue Door” which didn’t dispel my original pre-conception but on hearing their debut in full it became apparent that Purson whilst sharing the psych tendencies of many of those bands were heading down a different road and a much more commercial proposition with an emphasis on catchy melodies. Sure, they had the heavier moments but they sat alongside retro pop a la sixties – early seventies style.

Desire’s Magic Theatre takes a further step away from heavy rock and is much more of a psychedelic progressive pop album in the vein of the Small Faces Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake and The Beatles Sgt Pepper. Very much rooted in the sixties it reminds me of Thursday evenings as a child sat watching Top Of The Pops. This was in the days when you could be commercial and innovative at the same time. The album works best as a whole and full of catchy songs like the Glitter Band stomp of opening title track which could be what Goldfrapp might sound like if they used traditional instruments, that is until it shifts into more of a swing vein augmented by complimentary organ and flute work. Also high on my likes list is Mr Howard which from a Chicory Tip (Son Of My Father fame) opening goes into a trippy psych workout. Electric Landlady is about as heavy as it gets, which could have sat comfortably on their debut. Album Closer, The Bitter Suite stretches things out to seven minutes and twists and turns through many changes and is a snapshot of most of what this band is about. Frontwoman Rosalie Cunningham, a fine vocalist, is clearly in charge here and has a strong vision of how she wants her band to sound. In fact she plays most of the instruments herself barring drums and some guitar and bass work on a few tracks, presumably the rest of the band being there for live purposes only. Something that being a musician myself I would take objection too.

Purson are quite unique in today’s music scene, which sounds a bit contradictory when they sound totally retro but there’s not really anyone else I know of that are doing this kind of stuff these days. Fans of heavier music may find them a bit too poppy but if your tastes also stretch into prog and pop territory then you may find much to enjoy here. Desire’s Magic Theatre is a very good album which I enjoy very much but with no real killer tracks standing out I’m not blown away by it – pretty much like their debut in that respect, the superb Spiderwood Farm aside, the bands highpoint to this day.
Having blown me away with their debut album The Circle and the Blue Door (2013), UK psychedelic rockers Purson, led by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rosalie Cunningham, had really got their career going in a big way. In the time between the debut and this follow-up, Desire's Magic Theatre (2016) the band has set out to achieve a more stable line-up, and released the EP In the Meantime (2014) which served as something as a tide-over between the two albums.

In hindsight it's clear that In the Meantime also serves as something of a transitional release from Purson, as Desire's Magic Theatre is largely a different sounding album to The Circle and the Blue Door. While the previous was primarily a heavy psych album that put the band on a similar page to the likes of Blood Ceremony and Jess and the Ancient Ones, with Desire's Magic Theatre Purson have dropped a lot of their more hard rocking elements. They've become even more psychedelic because of that and also been able to use different elements in their sound such as folksy flutes and even jazzy saxophones, but it's the sort of shift that will no doubt come with the price of disappointing some fans of The Circle and the Blue Door, though in turn it will probably also win Purson a few new ones.

Early single Electric Landlady is the closest that Desire's Magic Theatre comes to the sound of The Circle and the Blue Door. The majority of the album takes a much softer direction. While it's still a very accomplished work worthy of heaps of praise with standout tracks being Pedigree Chums, The Sky Parade and The Bitter Suite, I was personally hoping to hear more in the vein of Electric Landlady. The previous album was hardly hard rocking all the way through, so I'd have liked to have heard more balance between the two extremes of Purson's sound again.

This is a still a very good album from Purson, all at once both pleasant and wacky and with great vocals from Cunningham. I can see myself chalking up many listens to it, but I don't find it has the same kind of addicting quality that kept me going back to The Circle and the Blue Door time after time again.

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