Lewis and the Strange Magics are in musical style a classic psychedelic rock band from Spain. It is evident from listening to this album that the late 1960s and early 1970s had an influence on their sound with the crusty guitar lines and unsophisticated electric organ. In fact I half expected Rod Argent to put in an appearance. The official version is that “the band’s musical influences go from Black Sabbath to The Beatles, mixing heavy riffs with pop melodies, all wrapped up in a psychedelic and dark atmosphere, inspired by cult movies and occultism”. We’re further told that “Velvet Skin” is about human perversion.
I confess that I found this album a mixed bag with some very interesting moments and others, which left me wondering why on earth I was listening to it. Just as “Golden Threads” is a well-worked classic and catchy song, so “Carbon Wine” is lightweight. “How to Be You” has a classic rock structure but the chorus is cheesy, the vocals are awful and apart from a good guitar solo, it has no soul. It’s almost like a pub band playing 70s rock. “Suzy’s Room” moves into jazz after a Procol Harum type start. In some ways it reminded me of the French cult band Trust who are known for meaningful lyrics. “Suzy’s Room” is mildly eccentric, as I guess is most of this enigmatic work. There’s a spoken part, it’s kind of groovy and the electric organ plays its part.
Now and again, colour and imagination break spectacularly through the puzzling array of nostalgia. “Nina (Velvet Skin)” is delightful, delicate, kind of trip-hop but featuring a totally funky jazz bass guitar. Oh, yes. “Female Vampire” which follows has a certain groove and energy about it but like the sultry “Cloudy Grey Cube” which follows, it’s decent enough without ever threatening innovation. And that’s the thing. These tracks are decent enough and usually quite pleasant to listen to. The psychedelically orientated “Your Evil Trip”, which is allowed the luxury of eight minutes, over which to develop the feel, falls into this category before heading into a retro progressive trip which its title promises. It’s confusing but not enlightening.
“All over the place” is the best way I can summarise “Velvet Skin”. There are captivating moments, just as there is life and energy. I can cope with the retro feel but if Lewis and his Strange Magics are going to do that, then they need to sound less derivative, move away from the musical equivalent of tv repeats and develop their ideas in a more modern and original way.
(5/10 Andrew Doherty)