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Info Nympho is the third full-length album from Cuddle Magic, a chamber-pop collective whose membership is split between Brooklyn and Philadelphia. The new album was recorded at Trout Studios in Brooklyn, engineered and mixed by Bryce Goggins (Swans, Akron/Family, Larkin Grimm) and self-produced by the group. It’s being released on FYO Records in Spring 2012.

On Info Nympho, Cuddle Magic balances folk timbres with surprising harmonies, pop song-craft with Steve Reich-inspired rhythmic complexity, and direct emotional lyrics with dense wordplay. These are lush, playful songs with wide-ranging instrumentation, including strings, percussion, vibraphone, trumpet, clarinet, keyboards, guitars, and many voices.

The album begins with “Disgrace Note”, a song by Ben Davis and his brother, poet and visual artist Tim Davis, written in response to the death of Vic Chesnutt. With the aid of a pencil and yards of taped-together graph paper, Davis divided 864, the number of beats in the song, in different ways to create interlocking phrase cycles: 24 phrases of 36 beats on one hand, and 3 phrases of 64 beats, 96 beats, and 128 beats on the other. This large canvas allowed Davis to visualize the shape of the song’s form, a gradual reverse-build that reflects the song’s theme of suicide. A propulsive drum break leads into “Baby Girl” by Alec Spiegelman, written for Baby Duchess, a lovely pit bull rescued from neglect and raised by a friend of the band. All of the parts in this song are comprised of strict subsets of a single 21-note cycle, either stated explicitly on guitar or imagined amidst the combination of horns, strings, and vocals. The introduction, performed unaccompanied by guest musician Phyllis Chen on toy piano, music box, and hand bells, is based on freer transformations of the same cycle. Kristin Slipp’s “Hoarders”, which revolves around an insistent half-step figure played on prepared piano, concert bells, and vibraphone, was inspired by the way many people obsessively hoard things – physical objects, thoughts, emotions, and memories.

 


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When Cuddle Magic first formed at New England Conservatory in Boston, the band’s goal was to perform and record music quietly and without amplification. This required the musicians to perform in close proximity to each other and to the audience, which led to the band’s name. Christopher McDonald (Rhodes electric piano, guitar, vocals, vibraphone, keyboards) and Ben Davis (bass, guitar, vocals, ukulele, banjo) began collaborating in 2005, recruiting Alec Spiegelman (clarinet, bass clarinet, vocals, guitar, harmonica, flute), Kristin Slipp (vocals, glockenspiel), and David Flaherty (drums, vibraphone, glockenspiel) to record their eponymous debut in 2007. Christopher and Dave then moved in with Ben in Jamaica Plain, MA where they developed their material further and added Cole Kamen-Green (trumpet, percussion) to the line-up. It was there in Jamaica Plain and at Wellspring Studios in ----, MA that they recorded and produced their second album, Picture, in 2009. Upon graduation, the band members left Boston with Christopher and Dave relocating to West Philadelphia and Ben, Alec, Kristin and Cole headeding to Brooklyn.

Besides their group endeavors the members of Cuddle Magic have engaged in collaborations with a diverse range of artists, including Beyonce, guitarist and composer Fred Frith, legendary “third-stream” pianist Ran Blake, the David Wax Museum, Larkin Grimm, Mike & Ruthy (formerly of the Mammals), new music toy-piano virtuoso Phyllis Chen, and progressive string band Joy Kills Sorrow. Members of Cuddle Magic can also be seen performing with Railbird, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, Baby States, Ronald Reagan, Bird Fly Yellow, Margaret Glaspy, The People’s Champs, Girls Guns and Glory, Lake Street Dive, Petal Shield, Split Red, Yapp!, The Superpowers Horns, and many, many others. The group tours the East Coast regularly and extensively.

   
 

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