Photo by Matthew Dara Alavi
Tim Cohen isn’t the kinda guy to sit idle. Much like his fellow Bay Area psych-rock compatriot John Dwyer, Cohen stirs a lot of creative pots. He grew up in Virginia, and made his way to San Francisco after college. He’s the leader of noise-pop act The Fresh & Onlys. He’s also an accomplished visual artist, and over the course of his career, he’s hit on psychedelia, black metal, and even a little hip-hop.
Magic Trick is the latest in a line of projects from Cohen. It started simply enough as a creative outlet between tours with The Fresh & Onlys. He released three full-lengths as a solo act: 2009’s Two Sides of Tim Cohen, 2010’s Laugh Tracks, and 2011’s Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick. Cohen enlisted some help to perform the songs live, turning his solo project into a full-fledged band. Joining Cohen and his Magic Trick are James Kim, Alicia Vanden Heuvel, and Noelle Cahill. In 2011 Cohen issued The Glad Birth of Love. It’s ostensibly still a Cohen solo record, but it was the first to carry the Magic Trick name. Vanden Heuvel and Cahill added backing vocals to Magic Trick’s 2012 quiet, atmospheric record Ruler of the Night.
Earlier this week (Dec. 3), Magic Trick released their third LP River of Souls. Much like it’s predecessors, Cohen takes more time to explore stylistic possibilities on River of Souls than he does with the more straight-forward psych pop of The Fresh & Onlys. He gets all earth-toned and twangy on the bounding, Western-flavored “Crazy Teeth.” Track nine, “My World,” begins as a Stax-y workout with a pumping, funky bass line and horn stabs before pushing into jazzy, interstellar psych. “The Store” is pure 60s mod-flavored, flower-pop. Drummer Kim keeps a quick-paced motorik beat, and the guitar lines are sharp and punchy. Vanden Heuvel and Cahill’s backing vocals soften the edges a little, and when the song hits hits the chorus, there’s a chord shift that’ll take back to the days of mop tops and Beatle boots. There’s a lot of sounds swirling around on River of Souls, but there’s also a lot of Tim Cohen to go ’round as well.