Candy Man

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:10

    Oct. 23, Landmark Loews Theatre, 54 Journal Sq. (at. Magnolia Ave.), Jersey City, 201-798-6055; 8, $35.

    Though Stephen Merritt thinks there’s nothing new under the sun, this hasn’t stopped the deep-voiced singer, songwriter, producer, gay-bar party thrower and all-around ringleader of indie battleaxe The Magnetic Fields from attempting to contradict himself.

    For The Fields’ latest album, Merritt chose to craft an homage to post-punk pioneers The Jesus and Mary Chain and the band’s 1985 debut Psychocandy, with its massive shimmering walls of distortion and squealing feedback.

    “I wanted to do something new, and being a postmodernist, I don’t believe in that,” Merritt says. “So, new for me means the latest new thing, rather than something that hasn’t been done before.”

    Merritt maintains that Psychocandy was the last pop album with “startlingly new production.” So the aptly named Distortion draws on the album’s modus operandi; but instead of simply guitars, bass and drums, Distortion unleashes a chamber-pop ensemble cranked up to 11.

    “Since they put out Psychocandy, there have been invented even smaller, shriekier, feedbackier amplifiers, so I thought, a little more static,” he says, referring to the immense volume of the cigarette pack-sized amplifiers that were attached to guitars, cello, organs, accordion and piano for Distortion’s recording.

    But though the latest record thrives on the possibilities of over-amplification, The Magnetic Fields has embarked on an entirely acoustic two-week tour. Merritt will play the bouzouki, a Greek-stringed instrument of the lute family, and with him will be Sam Davol on cello, John Woo on acoustic guitar, Claudia Gonson on piano and vocals and Shirley Simms on vocals as well.

    “We always pointedly ignore the sound of the record for our live arrangement, and we don’t use the same instrumentation,” Merritt says.

    Merritt clearly thrives on constraints, having imposed thematic limits on all of The Magnetic Fields’ albums for the last decade.

    Though The Magnetic Fields’ early years were dominated by synth pop, Distortion is the second installment of what Merritt calls “the no-synths trilogy,” which began with 2004’s quietly introspective I.

    “I’ve grown up playing the synthesizer. The synthesizer is my main instrument,” he explains. “I’ve been trying to explore the world of textures outside of the synthesizer with the idea that I can return to the synthesizer with a new perspective on it.”