Cuddle Magic – Info Nympho

January 01, 1970

(FYO)

 

www.fyorecords.com

 

Imagine Tuli Kupferberg running onstage during a concert by
Laurie Anderson or Philip Glass. A serene stream of sound that’s equivalent to
the dips and rises on a heart monitor is playing. The most easily identifiable
elements include a casio recorder, a snare drum, a clarinet, and light
background vocals. At the mic., Kupferberg begins “Disgrace Note” with the
statement, “I can’t write a song with Vic Chesnutt gone.”

 

The lead vocals here aren’t by Kupferberg – they’re
delivered by the gentler voice of Ben Davis. The lyrics are casually
intellectual; a scattered (but not scattershot), post-Beat stream of
name-dropping consciousness. It’s an engaging rumination without an ounce of
keening: These people mattered. Their losses have left weeping wounds. For this
listener, the deeper hook comes with the line, “Go screw God again/Richard
Brautigan’s gone.” But this oddly lovely ditty may appeal to more than
Brautigan lovers – indeed, it would provide an excellent theme for an NPR
program. Although the track could be Info
Nympho
‘s most inspired stroke, opening the album with this checklist
reveals a lot about where Cuddle Magic’s coming from. High(er) Culture mavens
can make music that’s shadowy and quiet; the antithesis of People Magazine and Entertainment
Tonight
.

 

While Cuddle Magic lacks the Shaggs’ primitively naïve
oddity, along with the left of left field work of Don Van Vliet or Gypsy Cat
& Gypsy Bird, its music is fairly demanding, and cloudy. Info Nympho‘s pink digipak is its
sunniest element. When the cello-based somberness of  “Marie Cardona” is punctuated by toy piano
chirps and clarinet comments, something, in some listeners, is stimulated: It’s
an interesting plod. And it’s most likely to appeal to fans of the Raincoats,
Coco Rosie, Steve Reich, and Jad Fair, as well as the Do at its most minimal.

 

The album stops a few feet short of being wonderful – it’s
moody and on/off engaging, but as musical poetry, it’s far from laureate-level
proficiency. That doesn’t mean that this multi-armed, young man-woman
collective, which is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Brooklyn,
New York, doesn’t still have some
wonder  up its mutual sleeve. Bassist
Bridget Kearney’s “Jason” has a pea-soup mournfulness (which is easily topped
by the version recorded by another band she’s involved with, Joy Kills Sorrow).
There’s something of magic in the warm, organic chemistry of “Again,” and the
staccato choruses of “Baby  Girl,” an
ambience that accounts for the band’s full performance schedule, and the
fan-based dollars that enabled this recording by way of a Kickstarter campaign.

 

Charisma and a charmingly thoughtful presence can only do so
much via recorded translation. If it can’t wander to less repetitive,
predictable destinations – or even if it can — what Cuddle Magic lacks is
inspired, or simply better, songwriting. While the lyrics are intelligent and
sincere, the music on Info Nympho isn’t lovely, strange, or remarkable enough to earn the band a multi-sectional
sofa in the club for brilliantly quirky artists that’s populated by the
Raincoats, the Do, and Robert Wyatt. Yet. Were I in the Northeastern part of this country, I’d still attend every show I
could, just to hear the tracks mentioned, and “Handwrit,” which approaches an
urban-feeling magnificence. And to hear what the band’s going to do next.

 

[Note: Tuli Kupferberg, best known for his work with the
Fugs, died of kidney failure and sepsis in 2010.]

 

DOWNLOAD: “Disgrace Note,” “Baby Girl,” Handwrit,” “Again” MARY LEARY

 

 

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