Sand Pebbles - Dark Magic (2011 LP)

When I first began researching Melbourne band Sand Pebbles' history for this review, I came across terms on their website such as ‘flower punk’, ‘hypnotic’, ‘cosmic’ and ‘kinetic’ to describe the band. I thought to myself, ‘Flower punk? Hypnotic? How can that possibly describe the sound of a band?!’. Well, turns out Sand Pebbles are all of those things - and more.

Dark Magic, Sand Pebbles’ fifth full length release, is somewhat of an evolution in the band’s sound and a slight step in a different direction which could be an indication of what to expect on album number six. But, before I get too ahead of myself, back to album number five.

The spectrum of sounds explored by the band on Dark Magic is phenomenal. The guys experiment with everything from folk to progressive rock and actually manage to do it in an incredibly cohesive manner - the album sounds unified, not just a contrasting collection of compositions. Opener ‘Spring Time (Who Hasn’t Lost Their Head?)’ is completely dreamy - the vocal timbre and sound is divine; ‘Long, Long Ago’ sees the introduction of acoustic guitars which play a large role in the sound of this album and lends a traditional folk vibe to the song; ‘River Sparkle’ forces you to refocus with it’s sudden increase in tempo and ‘Another Way To Love?’ is a beautiful song with vocal harmonies weaving in and out of a melody played on, what sounds like, a resonator.

Albums like this are few and far between in that through the combination of soundscapes, lyrics and instrumentation, they can transport you to or remind you of destinations in your mind; the music recorded on Dark Magic has the ability to conjure beautiful visuals.

Dark Magic should please old fans and hopefully win Sand Pebbles some new ones; the album itself is a shift in sound that should gain them more recognition in the Australian music scene.

Basically, I could gush about this album endlessly; the album’s folk and indie rock elements are perfectly contrasted and married with an inflection of psychedelia, synth and progressive rock. It’s a solid release from a band who clearly know how to keep their sound fresh even after five albums.

Review Score: 8.5/10