It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Roberta Flack is still much admired by contemporary artists. At the age of eighty three, the pop legend is still singing, and she’s left us with a legacy of smooth and graceful soul that even bad boys like Clint Eastwood and Anthony Kiedis couldn’t resist. Flying Lotus’ 2008 track “Roberta Flack” marked the first time her sound met the rough edges of electronic music, leaving us with a world-weary marriage of eclectic hip-hop beats and a captivating R&B flow. Twelve years later, the Toronto-based composer Nick Storring confesses his love for the singer with an album that captures the romantic sound Flack is so known for; yet rather than presenting a one-dimensional whole, he shows all the contradictions that it’s made up of, contrasting light-hearted jazz with melancholic violin phrases and easy listening sound effects that soothe the listener with innocent charm.
Though My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell feels uniquely enchanting, Storring’s movement between naïve instrumentalism and cathartic crescendo is by no means exclusive to the album. In the tradition of Balmorhea, Explosions in the Sky and Chapelier Fou, intense musical phrases are conjured and warped to the point of saturation. Unsatiated longing is evoked with discrete violin buildups that are almost Wagnerian in style; “Pretending You and I” merges them with smooth jazz, launching the listener into a kind of lounge version of an early Disney soundtrack. During “What a Made Up Mind Can Do” a sudden darkness becomes literal – bells and creaking doors create a dense and creepy sound, enriching this picturesque landscape with a nightmarish gloom. The appearance of bass and percussion confirm the album’s ambiguous tensions, dislocating it’s emotive appeal in favour of playful contemporary jazz.
During “Now Neither One Of Us Is Breaking” the violin is stripped of some of its soothing qualities and becomes an instrument in all of its materiality. Its extremes are touched upon here, causing a high-pitched sound that borders on the atonal, yet never quite delves into it. A poem to desire, the album seems to oscillate at the border of enchantment and disenchantment, only coming to a standstill at the peak of emotionality the both tend to deliver. When a nostalgic synth oozes through the cracks of the finale, the first notes of the album re-appear. They intertwine with the violin in an effortless dance, causing two seeming opposites to combine. In this way My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell is truly a composition, merging textures from across the musical spectre to create a sound that is as imaginative as it is gently disarming.
by Juliet Hoornaert.