Fluctuating between tragic musings and a breezy optimism, retribution and self-reflection are the prevalent themes of Magic Trick’s first release on Hardly Art. The brainchild of Fresh & Only’s Tim Cohen, Ruler of the Night is far from tricky. If anything, the album is intriguing in its genuine — albeit idiosyncratic — approach to songwriting.
Partially embracing the freestyle freak-folk weirdness of Devendra Banhart, Cohen’s bewitching, breathy vocals cast a spell of gloom that permeates the entire album, beginning with title track “Ruler of the Night.” Tribal drumming and a faraway flute accompany bedroom ramblings a la Bradford Cox in “Invisible at Midnight,” the album’s most remorseful track. As the title suggests, “Sunny” is pure childhood summer, hmms and ha’s guiding lowered windows all the way back to the sun-drenched cul-de-sacs where everything began.
Cohen’s vocals drop down to a growl on “Melodies,” the folksy frontman leading a soft choral background amidst xylophones and surf rock guitars. “Ruby” begins bluesy and unhurried, ending with a refreshing jam that dabbles slightly in both sleepy psychedelia and ambient drones. “Weird Memory” muses, a spacey nostalgia paired with rambling vocals that bring out the album’s moodiness most presently.
Overall a pleasant listen, Ruler of the Night falters in its creation of a considerable distance from the listener, where the album becomes more than visible as a piece that’s still being conjured, like a spell. The album feels unfinished, but not totally incomplete — instead, a documentation of something altogether mystical.
Ruler of the Night is a testimonial, an continuous string of anecdotes and experiences that continue to be written as they occur. Creating a never-ending scroll of songs to sing by the campfire, Tim Cohen will be stroking his beard in one hand and strumming on a guitar with the other.