Cuddle Magic - Ashes/Axis album review

Arty East Coast experimentalists’ fifth album

cover art for Cuddle Magic Ashes/Axis

Why you can trust Louder Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

This Boston-founded, Brooklyn-based ‘avant-pop’ collective formed a decade ago and have since individually collaborated with artistically inclined performers from Amanda Palmer to Beyoncé, but they’ve gravitated back together for a fifth album that suggests that they still fare just as well when pooling their creative resources.

The jittery beats of Spinning and the giddy three-legged drift of The First Hippie On The Moon Pt. 1 will surely intrigue prog heads, electronica geeks and art pop fans alike, and there’s a subtle thread of emotive vocal icing the cake. They’ve also got an undeniable sensuality about their sound – Slow Rider has a slow, slinky groove driven by a fat bass synth sound, and Kristin Slipp’s woozy vocals only intoxicate further, as if a hypnotic, unorthodox beat is gently pulling you out of reality into Cuddle Magic’s alternate universe where everything is just a little bit… warped. Recent single Trojan Horse is said to be inspired by the music and culture of northwest Ghana, but since these ears have very limited knowledge of the West African arts scene, it simply resembles another trippy, gossamer-soft passage of melancholic synth pop with the wheels removed and stuck back on the opposite way. And what’s so wrong with that?

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock