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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars15
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on January 12, 2002
1996's Magician Among the Spirits marked the beginning of the end of a meandering time in the Church's career. After 1992's remarkable Priest=Aura, cofounder Peter Koppes' left the band, leaving other co-founder and lead vocalist Steve Kilbey and signature lead guitarist Marty Willson-Piper to trudge on. Magician is the second of two albums (Sometime Anywhere is the first) where the subdued, lengthy, and occasionally dreamy compositions of Kilbey and Willson-Piper were marked by an aching, empty spaciousness that suggested some understated yearning (rather than the scintillating, often psychedelic guitar rock of their 80's records). Whether Kilbey and Willson-Piper intended it or not, their songs seemed to be fragments calling out for Koppes' input.
On Magician, Koppes made his brief "guest" return, and the hint that he might rejoin the group (as well as the gradually increasing presence of the Church's excellent drummer, Tim Powles) gives this record a certain lift. Magician feels like the heir apparent to Priest=Aura that 1994's Sometime Anywhere was not; but it plays like more of an uneven ten-song sketchbook than a fully-realized release.
Still, it features some great songs. "Comedown", the single (and a really great song live!), bottles the spirit and energy of classic Church songs like "Reptile" from Starfish and "When You Were Mine" from The Blurred Crusade. "Ladyboy" is another interesting return to form that successfully avoids formula.
Yet, other songs on Magician are curious oddities that tend to stumble, regain a sense of direction and form, and then stumble again almost thoughtlessly. Some of these tunes are interesting; the most compelling is probably "Romany Caravan". Some other tracks seem like the product of handful of musicians exploring each other's musical energy together in some late night studio session, but feel incomplete or unmolded ("The Further Adventures of the Time Being" and "Magician Among the Spirits"). Other tracks duplicate previous successes ( "Welcome" feels like an alternate version of "Aura" from Priest=Aura and it makes me smile every time I hear it), and similarly, "Afterimage" is an instrumental that seems kindred to "Film", Priest's closer.
The re-release of Magician with four extra tracks has bolstered the strength and continuity of the record to some degree, and I recommend choosing it over the original 1996 release.
If you are new to the Church, I don't recommend starting with Magician Among the Spirits (I gave it three stars here, but if Amazon supported half star ratings, I'd give it 3 ½). Start with Starfish or The Blurred Crusade. If you find yourself really getting into them and feel driven to try to unravel Steve Kilbey's lyrics or are fascinated by some of the sometimes deep, sometimes deeply bizarre emotional spaces Church songs can conjure, then give records like Magician Among the Spirits and Séance a try.
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on November 27, 2011
Never, never heard anything like this! This album is insanely detailed; alive, organic, constantly moving. A deep dark journey through your stereo speakers on a tripped out night, when the music is so thick you can feel it pouring out through the air. As soon as you start thinking, "Man, that last song was pretty weird...", the next one is even weirder! This was one of the most fun, interesting and creepy journey's I've ever had with an album. I'm still amazed at the production, at the depth and detail of sound, at the sound of the bass guitar, at the perfect amounts and styles of reverb that permeate this record. Not an everyday, let's get this party started kind of album but you know what I mean. Or you should.
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on January 1, 2004
I was excited when Magician Among the Spirits was released because I wasn't that thrilled by the previous album and I was hoping this one would be better. It was, but it's still not as strong as some of their previous efforts (especially Starfish, The Blurred Crusade and Heyday). At times the band sounds tired. Guitarrist Peter Koppes was missing from most of this album, and it shows. Although he's a quiet presence in the band, his thoughtful, dreamy guitar riffs are vital. (Thankfully he re-joined the band later.)
This isn't an album I'd recommend to new fans. However, if you enjoyed several of the Church's previous efforts (especially Priest=Aura), you'll probably like this CD as well.
"Come Down" is catchy and was released as a single. It got some airplay on college radio here in the U.S., but it just lacked something. It had potential, but as I mentioned earlier, the band seemed tired. On previous albums, I imagine the band would have continued working on the song until it sounded stronger.
My favorite track by far is the title track, "Magician Among the Spirits." It's very long (way too long for radio) and ambiant -- great for just chilling out on a lazy Sunday afternoon. When I hear it, I'm always struck by how much it reminds me of "Riders on the Storm" or "The End" by The Doors.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon April 28, 2015
Longtime Church fan here (since 80's). I think this is an excellent Church release! As a fan of progressive music, this is really unlike anything they have done before, and highly original. Really, I have not heard anything like this before, and that's a good thing, because it works. This release is really a 'musical paella' of flavors, with an experimental edge to it. It engages me, and draws me in. Production (recording/mastering) and sonics are excellent as well. Do not skip over this over the Church 'album' if you like exciting, unpredictable, and expansive music.
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on February 5, 2004
I think this is a great CD. The added "B side" tracks on this 2nd version are worth the choice. However, the bottom line is, its all a matter of preference and you'de have to hear it yourself to be the judge of that. Written descriptions just don't do the job.
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on October 29, 2006
It's hard to like something new or different when you are comfortable with what you have been listening for a long period of time. So when something like MATS comes along, it is for sure the Church long time fans are going to have a hard time swallowing it. The reason I am writing this review is because in a quick introduction I made to a friend, of the whole Church studio material, this one was the one that made the most impression on her, go figure! Lets start by saying that this is the most organic, eclectic and experimental record the band has made (musically), if you count that Peter Koppes only appeared as a guest. One of the factors that made this record so inaccessible for a lot of people is that it has an almost permanent mood, so if you are not in THAT mood its going to be difficult for someone to digest the whole in one setting. This is definitely a late night sedator; and I mean it in a good way. Just listen to the 14 minutes title song and you will know what I am talking about. The constantly use of violin is one of the trademarks of the production and may be a way to compensate the lack of PK's guitar in some parts. In my opinion what makes this album what it is in first place is the musical approach, and second the sometimes-kind-of tribal drumming of Tim Powles. Listen well to this record compared to other Church productions and you will get the idea, maybe Day of the Dead from SE does have the same vibe, but that's it. It kind of like TP is using his drum kit as African war drums. It is more evident from It Could Be Any One to Romany Caravan. I think this is TP strongest playing with The Church yet. Marty guitar sound is also kind of unique, like the delicate acoustic guitar in Romany Caravan, that is an outstanding atmospheric instrumental and the lovely Spanish guitar in the dream-like instrumental, Afterimage (in this one I almost hear Sade singing).
In the electric guitar department, Welcome has the catchiest riffs followed by the power chords of Comedown, the "commercial one" for some people. I think Marty is very loose on this album, creatively and technically, maybe because he is the owner of the guitar show here. I dare to say that I like, creatively speaking, much better what he has done in MATS than in his solo work.
The lyrics are good, but nothing that stands out. I mean for Church standards, that's their fault for spoiling us. But I don't think this album was lyric-oriented, I think the singing is more like another layer in the music that blends for you to feel it and not to sing along and give meaning to something. Well it's hard not to sing along in Welcome and Comedown. All in all MATS is a very good album. Not my favorite but yet a very special one, I kind of transport my self into a fantasy world with strange creatures in it when I hear it. The secret to appreciate this album is to listen to it with an open mind, forget the other material, and just listen to it as if it was a different band. If this would have been from another artist I assure you everybody would have talked about it as the something remarkable. But again it's their fault for spoiling us with such great music for all this time.
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on August 25, 2013
I downloaded a few songs from this album and it showed up as "Th Church". Just one letter missing, so what's the problem? A music player typically ignores the word "The" but if the word is "Th" is doesn't. So the songs didn't appear with other Church songs in the letter C part of the playlist but all the way in the letter T part.

I like the more "rockin" songs by the Church, the ones where there's a bit of drumming and they let the guitars rip a bit. Songs like "Welcome", "Comedown" and "Lady Boy" fit the bill and am enjoying them once I figured out where to find them on my computer.
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on May 1, 2000
I stumbled across magician among the spirits browsing through the record store, and like the rest of their albums bought it hoping and wondering. I was surprised to find that despite their being only a few strong songs, the sound was different, not the typical sound I'd been hearing for the last 6-7 years. Songs like comedown, ladyboy and romany carvan, were like a breath of fresh air from the church's norm.
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on May 1, 2000
I stumbled across magician among the spirits browsing through the record store, and like the rest of their albums bought it hoping and wondering. I was surprised to find that despite their being only a few strong songs, the sound was different, not the typical sound I'd been hearing for the last 6-7 years. Songs like comedown, ladyboy and romany carvan, were like a breath of fresh air from the church's norm.
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on March 29, 2015
fast delivery, good price
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