‘Desire’s Magic Theatre’ is the second album from the psychedelic, gothic, folk, prog rock band Purson, released on 29th April 2016 as a 10-track gate-fold vinyl album and a 13 track deluxe gatefold digipack CD on the Spinefarm Records label.
Recorded at Gizzard Studios in Bow, London and at Rosalie Cunnigham, Purson’s gifted founder, leader, singer, guitarist, producer and writer’s own Mushy Room Studios. This album comes three years after their exceptionally strong debut ‘Circle And The Blue Door’. ‘Desires Magic Theatre’ is very much Rosalie Cunningham’s progressive creative vision. Having written every song, played most of the instruments and producing the album herself, the album’s soundscape takes its cue from the atmosphere and colours of the psychedelic 60’s. It is a hypnotizing sonic exploration through a mesmerising cosmic tapestry with an effervescent kaleidoscope of textures in radiant technicolour. A definitive multi-faceted panoramic psychedelic musical cabaret trip. An ethereal whirling fairground ride into a mythical and magical world full of twists and turns with wafts of patchouli oil and incense resonating in every groove.
The eye catching and powerfully striking cover depicts Rosalie naked and painted blue with thigh high black boots and six arms, perhaps depicting that of the Hindu goddess Durga. A Gibson SG guitar covering her modesty and her long dark hair covering her chest. A giant blue hand is holding her left leg and she is also holding identical dolls of herself into the distance. The background is a striking black and white spiral with beautifully colourful pastoral psychedelic scenes surrounding the edges. Each member of the band can be seen on each of the four corners. The band name does not appear on the front cover, just the album’s title.
The title track ‘Desire’s Magic Theatre’ opens the album with a nice tight chugging guitar boogie meandering into a nice dreamy sequence with tasty changes in tempo and colourful instrumentation. ‘Electric Landlady’ is a superb riffing rocker with an obvious ode to Hendrix, Rosalie’s tantalising thrilling vocals adding an ethereal quality. ‘Dead Dodo Down’ has hints of vaudeville and avant-garde dadaism, but still very much in the psychedelic rock vain. Some nice lead guitar breaks and mind warping lyrics. ‘Pedigree Chums’ is a track with further vaudeville leanings, but with shades of darkness and stabbing light.
There is quite a lot of phasing on the vocals, which is a reoccurring theme throughout the album, with occassional melodic saxophone bursts adding some nice flavour. ‘The Sky Parade’ is a highlight with a superb acoustic guitar intro leading into some tasty Hammond organ playing with a slight Floyd sounding groove. This song transports the listener on a sky drive journey through a galaxy of planets and further on to other worldly hippie sanctums with tingling sensations and a sprinkling of stardust on top. The song ends abruptly then straight into ‘The Window Cleaner’, a first-rate bass guitar groove setting the track up with a sublime melody to carry it through. Surreal lyrics confuse as to their meaning, mind expanding stuff!
‘The Way It Is’ has a beautiful light and bright melody, a perfect little catchy pop song. ‘Mr Howard’ apparently was a wicked man! Some Bowie glam rock leanings here, eminent keyboard sound and awesome space jam section which sounds like early Hawkwind. ‘I know’ slows the pace down a bit, nice little tune but more filler than classic. ‘The Bitter Suite’ is the best track on the album. It has a marvellous swirling and meandering piano intro developing into an outstanding folk prog masterpiece with clever changes in mood and alterations in tempo. Hints of Pentangle and early Genesis resonate throughout this perfect musical suite. Some tasty flute and piano passages alter the feel and add interesting textures.
On the Deluxe CD we get three extra tracks, the first of which is another new song called ‘Unsure Overture’ a co-write with guitarist George Hudson. It is a triumph of colliding sounds with strong flavours of classic era Uriah Heep. The other two tracks are good acoustic versions of ‘I Know’ and ‘The Sky Parade’.
I would award this album a strong nine out of ten. For their third album I would like to see the whole band be involved with the recording process, working and developing the songs up live in the studio, rocking harder and capturing that special groove and chemistry they have developed together.
The future for Purson knows no bounds. The current line of Rosalie (vocals, guitar), George Hudson (guitars), Samuel Robinson (keyboards), Justin Smith (bass) and Raphael Mura (drums) has been stable for just over two years now, extensive touring has locked their sound tight and focused their vision. With Rosalie’s commitment and creative drive Purson are on their way to even greater things.
Steven C. Gilbert