Oct 2012 15

18 Summers - The Magic Circus18 Summers
Category: Darkwave / Electro-pop
Album: The Magic Circus
Stars: 3
Blurb: This German trio’s long awaited return finds lyrical depth and magical disposition battling with the band’s affinity for outdated musical styles and monotonous songwriting.


Over 10 years have passed since the last album of 18 Summers – the brainchild of Silke Bischoff, Felix Flaucher, and Frank Schwer whose musical roots reach somewhere into the depths of romanticized ‘80s. The creative impulse is in fact reminiscent of anything that happened between then and now due to the band’s genre-crossing bend towards stylistic transcendence. The residue of pop, rock, and darkwave crystallizes immediately on The Magic Circus and holds a firm grip on the album’s content. As a result, this newest release fails to overcome its heavily nostalgic setup and constantly serves, despite the band’s effort, more of the same.

There’s a faint texture of magical incoherence in the order of The Magic Circus. The music sways between acoustic guitar and a layer of purely electronic and massively indulging rhythms. “Chippewa Lake Park” is mesmerizing as it constantly merges vocal, live instruments, and synthesizers into one swirling entity that, within its melodic structure, carries a spark of life-affirming nostalgia. Similar in its acknowledgement of the recently underused, lightheartedly romantic side of the electro-pop aesthetic is “Deep in Your Heart.” Both tracks successfully reinvigorate the stagnant, moody predisposition of the genre and its tendency to overlook the simple aural pleasantries that are embodied here by gentle, soft spoken vocal and an intermittent use of chime-like effects that reassure the listener’s belief in the somewhat otherworldly nature of the lyrical content of the album.

Mature subject matter – love, loss, and death – is focalized through honest, straightforward, and cynicism-free writing that indicates a thematic cross between the realm of adult reality and childish fantasy. 18 Summers is all about crossing those borders and both textual and musical facets of the album emphasize this constant duality and a journey back and forth between those two states of emotional being. Even the band’s name indicates this age defined threshold and the songs themselves, that often through prominence of mellow guitar work encapsulate the very much contemporary indie notions, focus on both the concerns of passing pubescence and nostalgia that should be yet unborn.

The downside to the adamant precision with which this album was erected by the German trio is the monotony of the record as a whole. The tones of “Dream Machine” are so devastatingly mellow that the song, despite a complex polyphonic structure in which some rather unexpected beats can be picked up, leaves no impression whatsoever. In fact, this overkill of melancholy is one permuting annoyance on The Magic Circus and every possible chance for a tonal shift turns out to be a dead end; instances where a track begins with, or exercises throughout, a different rhythm (like the rapid, euro-dance hook on “The Strange Fruit”) are diminished by Flaucher’s whispered delivery that insists on dreamlike even when the listener’s patience might be already exhausted. You might feel challenged and tested by 18 Summers’ latest effort as they continue to strive for and utilize the same sense of magical time-halt achieved by intertwining the tempo of electronic pop and the more thoughtful, reverberating sound of weepy guitars. While deliberately paced ballads like “The Funeral” and “Queen for a Day” benefit from this particular approach, tracks like “Underworld” or “Beautiful Day” are indigestible slices of musical faux pas, suspiciously filled with zombified elements like rap chorus and explosively corny innuendos.

All and all, there is a huge chunk of enjoyment here, albeit covered by an excess of sugar rich icing. The Magic Circus carries a capacity to momentarily indulge you, but prolonged exposure to its content diminishes this initial affect. In small doses, 18 Summers is capable of delivering an uplifting record that defies the current trend of albums filled with tired, depressed moods. As a remedy to music that forgots how to enjoy itself and induce upheaval other than rage-driven, The Magic Circus, despite the lack of a strong hook and general monotony, will do just fine. Similarly minded gentle souls will have more than a passing fling with it and perhaps the variety in this case does not apply to the album itself, but instead to the broader context of what the current wave of electro-pop offers to its listeners.
Track list:

  1. Intro
  2. Chippewa Lake Park
  3. Deep in Your Heart
  4. Underworld
  5. Dream Machine
  6. The Strange Fruit
  7. Beautiful Day
  8. Radio S.A.T.A.N.
  9. The Magic Circus
  10. Queen for a Day
  11. The Funeral
  12. Secretly
  13. Outro

18 Summers Website http://www.eighteensummers.de
18 Summers MySpace http://www.myspace.com/18summers
18 Summers Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/18-Summers-official
SPV Website http://www.spv.de
SPV MySpace http://www.myspace.com/spvmusic
SPV Facebook https://www.facebook.com/spvhannover
Purchase at:
Amazon CD
Damian Glowinkowski (DamienG)

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