[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(60 min, Metal Mind)
TRACK LIST: 1. Spy 7:56 2. Irreversible 6:08 3. Pati 5:41 4. Into My Hands 6:40 5. Insomnia 6:10 6. My Own Words 3:59 7. Pill 3:09 8. Circus 9:29 9. DownWords 10:43 LINEUP: Maja Konarska - vocals Andrzej Kutys - guitars, e-bow Michal Podciechowski - bass, classical guitar Kuba Maciejewski - keyboards, piano Maciej Kazmierski - drums With: Marcin Bors - guitars, bass; keyboards Marta Sochal-Matuszyk - violin Lukasz Matuszyk - accordion
Prolusion. MOONLIGHT should probably be regarded as veterans of Poland's contemporary progressive scene, as they celebrate their 15th anniversary this year. Singer Maja Konarska remains as the only one of the musicians who founded the outfit back in 1991, though most of the other members of Moonlight's current lineup have been with her already for almost ten years. The collective is famous for their frequent live performances, as well as their consistently high activity in the studio. Their official discography includes two concert releases (CD and DVD) and eight full-length studio albums, namely "Moonlight" (1993/2003), "Kalpa Taru" (1996), "Meren Re" (1997), "Inermis" (1999), "Yashi" (2001), "Candra" (2002), "Audio 136" (2004) and "DownWords" (2006), which signifies my acquaintance with Moonlight.
Analysis. At least on this album, Moonlight don't shine with technical filigree, but this would be just needless for the music they present here. What is typical of "DownWords" is that everything here is focused upon composition and on the strengthening of harmonic bridges between tracks. In other words, this is a highly cohesive album, regardless of a certain diversity of its stylistic picture. On closer examination, it turns out that although five of the nine songs stand out for some distinctive features that are peculiar only to them, the entire material possesses some inner unity, which in many ways smoothes over the contradictions between all the pieces, thus lending them a common kinship on many levels. Some contain many dramatic transitions, some less, some little (the two referring to Words in the their titles, to be described last of all), but none is ordinary. Those from the first two categories all have a solid rhythmic groove provided by the dynamic rhythm-section (which is a cardinal propulsive force here), often in conjunction with low-pitched hypnotic passages of synthesizer. The sound is saturated, distinct and volumetric, and is normally dense and layered, constantly revealing some new sonic and textural collages. The mood ranges from light sorrow to melancholy, but mystery and aggression are not far from here, and even though the latter much more often suggests itself in latent form, it manifests tangibly in most cases. This music quite well reflects the essence of our existence on the planet of Earth. Maja deserves special praise for her singing. While the 'vocal entities' seem to be less subjected to mood changes, they just exist a bit outside our customary emotional spectrum. Anyhow, they're always beautiful and bring a keen sense of fragility to the stuff. The number of rapid solos is small, the basic tempos usually range from slow to moderately slow, but the music is always moving, gripping, contrasting, mesmerizing even at its softest moments. This is music that is progressive despite the absence of intricate arrangements, having a philosophical feeling without being sophisticated. The overall style defies accurate definition, and only its components are determinable, though even these are modified, at times almost beyond recognition. (So please note this before I list them:-). Neo Prog, Space Rock and Gothic are most widespread. They touch each of the songs, save the aforementioned two and Pill, while Pati, Into My Hands, Insomnia and Circus are points of their concentration, each being notable for excellent piano work. Moonlight play in a very personal, fully unique style. Only atmospherically is there common ground between these and Marillion's "Afraid of Sunlight", Landberk's "Indian Summer" and "Signify" by Porcupine Tree. Just a casual remark: Accordion could have imparted a healthy dose of folksy flavor to Circus if its contribution to the song had been more significant. On Spy, which also features accordion plus a very inventive violin, the band moves towards a more intricate and a heavier, progressive Doom Metal-related sound, with the considerable renunciation of Art-Rock keyboard patterns in favor of those reminiscent of Classical music, though the primary components of the album's overall style are still here as well. The next song, Irreversible, can be described in a similar way. I only have to underscore its incredible heaviness, evidenced primarily in the crushing guitar riffing, and the presence of some angular RIO-like movements instead of those of Classical music (although violin is active, too). In a way, it's like abstract algebra - in the best meaning of the concept, though the associations with Leif Edling's Abstract Algebra are also pertinent - in a way, still. Pill is made up mainly of Metal constructions; it's rapid, intense and heavy almost throughout, Maja's singing being also powerful in this case. The remaining two pieces, My Own Words and DownWords, are not only free of any sorts of aggression, but are also much lighter in mood than any of the other songs. Both are based on soft-and-slow piano-laden, fully transparent (perhaps just airy) arrangements, with Maja's vocals morphing gently over recurring backgrounds. By the way, the title track is the one that slightly disappointed me, perhaps due to its strange constitution. The song as such doesn't exceed 4 minutes; then follow effects, and the rest of the track's space is filled with nothing else but emptiness. So the CD's real duration isn't the hour mentioned above, but is less by 5 minutes - not a big deal, of course.
Conclusion. Bearing in mind its real musical content (or just music as such, if you will), Moonlight's "DownWords" is essential listen from start to finish. Anyone on a good footing with good music regardless of its stylistic or structural peculiarities should love it. Highly recommended.
VM: June 26, 2006
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]