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Young Magic
NYC's wizard from oz
by: Dave Cromwell - June 20, 2013


Jingling bells on sticks, rattling chains, single struck congas and thundering toms all share significant time in the mix. Interlocking guitar patterns gently move through progressions as dominant lay- ers of percussion rise to the forefront. With the release of their debut album Melt this past February, New York-based trio Young Magic has staked a serious claim on the ever evolving psychedelic dream-pop landscape.Isaac Emmanuel and Michael Italia began playing together in their native Australia back in 2007.

The duo first met Indonesian-born Melati Malay in 2009, but didn't start working together until last year. Michael explains, "We had just finished recording a bunch of songs for an album but we never put it out. I remember having this huge drive to be making music, but I couldn't find anyone to collaborate with in Melbourne. I kind of grew a little tired of trying to form bands and get everyone in one place. So I bought a Macbook and set up a little studio and just started making beats and experimenting with sounds in my bedroom. Isaac was doing the same thing, and actually started the Young Magic name at that time. Isaac then left for Europe, and I went to the US. We eventually met in New York and rented a room in the East Village where we'd spend all day hunched over our laptops just making music and sharing sounds. Looking back, we were both really just learning how to use everything at that point. About a month later,I left for Europe. I was only planning on a two-week trip, but somehow I ended up in South America, and 5 months later I resurfaced in New York in the dead of winter. During that 5-month period, we had all been working on a bunch of material. Melati, Isaac and I then rented a warehouse in Brooklyn above an old Cabaret theatre with our good friend, Trent Gill (a.k.a. Galapagoose). It was February, and New York had just been hit with a huge snow blizzard. It was so brutal. Our place didn't have any heating, and I just remember huddling up together for long cold nights, sharing all the music we'd been making during our travels and trying to keep warm. This is when the idea of Melt actually came together. We suddenly realized we had all this music, and began piecing together everything we'd been working on. We did most of it in New York. Then Isaac and I went back to Australia to mix the record with Trent."

The track "Slip Time" takes a more experimental approach, building its angular repeating hook around a shrieking synth line. More than a few robotic bleeps and blips can be heard before recognizable vocals make their way into the fray. It's all cascading layers of voices until more stabilizing handclap percussion emerges at the end. Michael describes how the compositions evolve: "It's definitely a joint effort, and I think it works best this way. We all bounce ideas off one another. Sometimes months will pass where we've all been writing separately, and then we'll get together and show all the songs - sketch ideas we've come up with. Then share ideas and send the tracks back and forth, and it kind of just builds from there."

Other cuts like "You With Air" pulse along a jumpy keyboard line while harmonized voices repeat the titular phrase. This drone sets the tone for the verses to be presented in half-talk, half-chant manner. Michael shed additional light on the band's origins and influences: "I grew up in a musical family. My Grandfather was a musician and so was my father. We actually had a studio at my house when I was growing up in Melbourne. Looking back, it was pretty dope. My Dad built it and ran an independent record label from an office space in our backyard. There were always a lot of instruments lying around the house, and I think that's where I started to pick it up. I remember I'd always sit in on recording sessions in the studio, and try and sneak something on the recordings. But my Dad was predominately a guitar player, so I grew up playing mostly guitar and experimenting with all of the percussion lying around. I remember in primary school, there were a group of us that would sneak into the music hall during lunchtime and experiment with all the gear they had lying around. I started playing in punk bands quite young, and by the time I was in high school was playing in these crazy avant- garde experimental psychedelic bands, with horn sections, cheap synths, a Theremin and all type of self-indulgent stuff. I met Isaac when I joined a band that was looking for a guitar player. We ended up recording enough material for an album together, but never put it out, and the band split up. It was at this point that I kinda grew a little tired of playing in bands, and began producing my own music. Isaac was actually doing the same thing. And after about a year of all three of us writing individually, we met in New York and started to play shows as Young Magic."

Melt came together over the course of about one year. The band members were all traveling separately and writing their own songs on the road. Not until they all got together in New York and began sharing songs with one another did they really start thinking about how they wanted it to sound. "It was an interesting way to do it because, looking back, we had such an eclectic bunch of songs recorded. We had to find what we wanted the album to sound like," notes Isaac. "It was quite difficult because there were some songs that we really liked, but were just far too obscure or stylistically different to include with this album. I don't think that's a bad thing though. But we've put them in the vault, so who knows, we may still put a lot of that material out."

The band starts the songwriting for most of the songs with a beat and builds on top of the rhythm. "I've always really liked combining electronic beats with more live organic percussion. We all have pretty eclectic music tastes and listen to a lot of music that came out of Africa and Turkey in the '60s and '70s. Artists like Selda, Ersen and Erkin Koray have such amazing rhythms. But I don't think it was a conscious decision to make the percussion sections sound a particular way. Most of the time, we'd be sitting around working on a song, and one of us would just pick up something and start taping on it. Then we'd record it."

"When I listen back to the album or when we play it live, it's very nostalgic. All these memories come flooding back I'm reminded of all the places we recording in, the people we met and the amazing experience we got to share during that time. It's almost like reading over a journal, except it's a sonic journal that reminds me of the sights, smells and colors of South America, Europe and New York.

“I’ve always really liked combining electronic beats with more liveorganic percussion. We all have pretty eclectic music tastes and listen to a lot of music that came out of Africa and Turkey in the ’60s and ’70s.”

Young Magic

what it is

psychedelic, electronic dream-pop