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Moraine - 2011 - "Metamorphic Rock"

(69:16, Moonjune Records)



1.  Irreducible Complexity 3:39
2.  Manifest Density 3:45
3.  Save the Yuppie Breeding Grounds 4:02
4.  Disillusioned Avatar 10:25
5.  Disoriental Suite 11:46
6.  Kuru 4:31
7.  The Okanogan Lobe 7:36
8.  Uncle Tang's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 3:44
9.  Blues for a Bruised Planet 4:35
10. Waylaid 5:33
11. Middlebrau 9:07


Denis Rea – guitars 
Alicia DeJoie – violin
James DeJoie – saxophones, flutes 
Stephen Cavit – drums
Kevin Millard – bass

Prolusion. “Metamorphic Rock” is the sophomore release by the US band MORAINE, following “Manifest Density” from 2009. The 11-track “Metamorphic Rock” was recorded live at NEARFest, mixing the outfit’s older compositions with new pieces of music, which are five in number. I will view the album as it is, without dividing tracks into categories according to their origin, because it presents new versions of the previously issued ones. I must also mention that the fourth track (see above) includes two more pieces in fact, Dub Interlude and Ephebus Amoebus.

Analysis. What’s instantly striking is that, just like its predecessor, this album covers several styles, but does so in quite a different manner, overall representing just what its title suggests, and while some over-eclectic arrangements (few in fact – so few that they can easily go unnoticed upon the first spin) are detectable, there are no freakish constructions of abstract or, say, merely abnormal structure at all. On the other hand, unlike “Manifest Density”, it doesn’t contain any traditional jazz tricks – even the smallest hints of those. The other main thing that stands out on the first listen is that most of the compositions are positively complicated: full of changes in pace, rhythm, key and mood (which is even dark in places). Most of those, in turn, are highly polymorphic in structure, in particular Manifest Density, Save the Yuppie Breeding Grounds, Kuru and The Okanogan Lobe, but especially so the properly titled Irreducible Complexity, and also Uncle Tang's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, both of which throughout have at once an incredibly dense, intense and complicated sound. Anyhow, the music is brilliant on all of the listed pieces and is heavily composed, to my mind. Regarding the older tracks, the new recording is certainly devoted to re-vitalizing their initial sound: by adopting strong folkish influences (those referring to Central Asia the most striking: just listen to Irreducible Complexity and Save the Yuppie Breeding Grounds), as well as some extra – emotionally positive – chamber rock inflexions. If one calls this stuff RIO, he/she will most likely find it to be closer to Samla Mammas Manna than to Univers Zero, let alone Henry Cow, with which I’d agree, considering the presence of folkish motifs and the mood that prevails here, whereas overall the music is unique to my mind, as is practically everywhere on the album. Indeed, all of the above compositions often enter RIO territory, with the underlying groove based on repetitive, yet complex rhythms, the excellent live sound adding a lot of energy to the proceedings, I must add. Violin, sax and guitar arrangements are lively, virtuosic and irreproachable, provided by Alicia DeJoie, James DeJoie and Denis Rea respectively, and while the instrument of the band’s main man, Denis, is in the spotlight a bit more often than his bandmates’ ones, the latter use any opportunity to join it, intermingling in a complex, yet elegant, sonic pattern. Waylaid and Middlebrau both for the most part alternate RIO-evoking and more traditional jazz-rock moves, containing no heavy riffs or harsh guitar solos. Disillusioned Avatar for the most part develops unhurriedly. However, besides those with melodically pronounced arrangements (normally with violin and sax at their fore), it has a couple of sections where the music suggests Space Fusion, deploying a guitar as its main soloing vehicle. Finally, Blues for a Bruised Planet and Disoriental Suite are both mellower, slow-paced – yet still fairly complicated in places – pieces of a quasi jazz-fusion ‘appearance’, the latter full of colorations of Japanese ethnic music, albeit one of its segments only refers to the blues.

Conclusion. Moraine has made creatively quite a big step forward already with its second release, showing they’re one of the most promising modern bands to look out for in the future. Highly recommended! I would have rated “Metamorphic Rock” as a complete masterpiece as well as included it in my personal chart of 2011 if the album had at least two thirds consisted of new compositions. Yes, I’m pedantic in this respect, and none of the bands’ discographies that are featured on this site contain compilations, unless those that consist for the most part of previously unavailable compositions. Everybody goes crazy :-) in his own way…

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: May 3, 2012
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Moonjune Records


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