Album review: littlebow – Pi Magpie

by Thomas Blake

Pi Magpie, the second album by London duo littlebow (small ‘l’), is fittingly titled given its pick’n’mix attitude to genre, influence and technique. It is a series of neo-classical vignettes, brim-full of suggestive, breathy flutes. Or is it a bracing burst of instrumental folk-pop? Or perhaps it is a succinct snippet of pastoral jazz, tweaked into life here and there by pinprick synths or globetrotting percussion?

In fact it is all or none of these things, depending on the angle of approach. Devil’s Interval, for instance, advances on insistent drums, a probing time signature and a krautrock-lite judder, and does its thing in well under four minutes. Many of the tracks here are even shorter. Wearside Ratcatchers marries glitch and gleam, and clocks in at just over two minutes. It is a refreshing tactic, proving that progressive or modern compositional pieces needn’t ‘go long’ in order to create an atmosphere.

For the Song evokes chamber-pop in the style of a jazzier Belle and Sebastian, Donovan or Sufjan Stevens. If it weren’t for the attention to detail, the continuous growth and the pleasant surprise of vocals, it could be the incidental music to a lost, bucolic children’s television programme from the 1970s.

How the Moon Got Its Light is gentle psych folk whilst Joe Caligula trips along on African rhythms and a neat guitar motif. Part Time Blind introduces tinkling flashes of minimal electronica.

But despite the mass of influences on show, Pi Magpie never feels overstuffed. On the contrary, it is an album full of space which, despite its brevity, leaves much time for wonder and reflection.

Pi Magpie is released 14th October on Second Language