There’s a certain trouble with having long-standing “favorite” bands. There’s an assumption, a history, a sense of entitlement and drama that builds in the fan’s corner, forever obscuring the proper efforts of those on the other side eager to make music that satisfies their own creative self. But once you take each member of that band out of his or her familiar environment, there’s room for a fresher appreciation, removed from the backdrop of expectation and the weight that comes with it.
Artmagic find themselves with this freedom. The collaborative project from singer/producer Sean McGhee and guitarist Richard Oakes return today (April 27) with a new single, “The Clean Room,” a set-up and sampler that sets the mood for their forthcoming LP, The Songs Of Other England, out June 15.
With music described as “twilight urban pastoral,” the album’s title could be read a few different ways. Oakes, of course, is the recognizable name and face most associated with Suede, while McGhee has paired with Alison Moyet, both as her musical director and backing singer, sharing stages and songwriting credits on Moyet’s 2017 album Other. While Suede are currently in the studio recording their eighth album, one that won’t be capable of escaping every fan’s intense reaction, Oakes is able to exhale here with Artmagic. And it shows on “The Clean Room,” a determined, folk-tinged mood-setter that allows Oakes and McGhee to play by their own rules. It’s a driving number that moves along the shadows, and is striking in its simplicity.
“The Clean Room exemplifies our approach to our new album,” McGhee tells Vanyaland. “We wanted to be instinctive and not overthink the album. We wanted to work on a smaller canvas, with starker colours. And we wanted to leave room for imperfection.”
With six years between albums, Artmagic’s been allowed to set their own pace, a sound and style shaped by the blank spaces left by their other projects, and the result is something organic and whole. It’s a direct-to-listener approach, free from everything else that obscures the line between musician and fan.