Liveforlivemusic.com [Stream/Review] Posted by Rex Thomson on Tuesday October 11th, 2016
The madness and mayhem of a MarchFourth live show has been distilled into pure sonic form on their latest release, Magic Number, and it’s quite an amazing feat. Primarily known for their senses shattering performances filled with costumes, acrobatics and costumed finery, the band is more than capable of delivering a solid collection of tunes. Stripped down to their sonic core, MarchFourth shows the big band sound of eras past is more than viable to modern day sensibilities.
Listen to the album below, and follow along with our in-depth review below. (Spotify)
Kicking things off with a brassy blast from the horn section “Call To Action” serves as just that for listeners, urging them to their feet and onto the nearest dancing surface. With Galactic sax man Ben Ellman serving as producer, you’d be right in assuming that the album is filled with horn melodies. Ellman corralled fifteen members of the band into New Orleans’ famed Parlor Recording Studio for an intense, compact recording session, resulting in concise, toe tapping numbers like the swirling and energetic opener.
It would be easily understandable and even forgivable if MarchFourth filled Magic Number with rampaging instrumentals, but on “The Quarter Master”, the band slows the tempos and introduces a vocal sensibility that uses echo and chorus to accurately capture the band’s live sound. A vaguely mariachi tinged horn line and an explosively propulsive beat drives the title track while a wise examination of life’s ups and downs and the importance of watching out for each other is relayed. A wicked guitar solo erupts in the center of the track adding diversity and a wicked heaviness thus far untapped, adding fresh dimension and fury.
You don’t reach out to one of the standard bearers of the Nawlins funk sound without hoping to add some of that delicious flavor to your own. Tracks like “Push It Back” show these influences, while still retaining the band’s independent spirit. The fuzzy guitar line of “Inventing The Wheel” and the methodically plodding drum beats provide a delicious dichotomy between the follow the leader brass line, before erupting in a harmonica led explosion.
Wound throughout this disc are guest appearances by some of NOLA’s finest, who manage to lend spice without dominating the overall flavor of the band. Legendary drummer Stanton Moore lends his stick work throughout adding to the authenticity of the sound without ever overstating his presence. “Hot Stepper,” an universal dance tune that seems so perfectly suited to serve as sonic shorthand for party music in any film or TV project that one wonders how long it’s going to take for Hollywood to come knocking and shows off the percussionists additions to mix wonderfully.
Thanks to the upbeat nature of the material, MarchFourth’s music is so intrinsically positive that it can’t help but elevate the listener’s spirits on a mental and spiritual level. No song more exemplifies their effect on the psyche than “Science,” whose lyrics urge you to free your mind and soul from the chains of society. The irresistible beat and dynamic arrangement allows each piece of the band to contribute to the composition with their own style, somehow seamlessly uniting for a pure slice of funky positivity.
MarchFourth has much to be proud of on Magic Number. Their decision to go into the studio with a solid deadline and distinctive production plan has resulted in a tight, joyous album. Each song is a celebration of their musical identity, each note coming from a place that is wholly their own. Managing to be both idiosyncratic and universal is an impressive feat by itself, but doing it while maintaining a completely infectious spirit is a move that shows the maturity and comfort of MarchFourth. They are truly modern masters of the big band sound.