Plumbiferous Media

Flowers of the Moon – Moonspeed

Dec 27th 2009
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Flowers of the Moon - MoonspeedMoonspeed
Flowers of the Moon
Score: 75

Eleven piece not-quite-ambient, not-quite-dreampop band Moonspeed released its most recent LP, Flowers of the Moon earlier this month. As if an eleven-piece band weren’t enough, each member plays quite a few instruments, with the result being that there are near scores of available instruments. And, of course, Jeff Suthers, the band’s founder, insures that each instrument is put to its full potential, the most recent result being a quite promising, though not entirely flawless album.

Like many other large-ensemble bands, Moonspeed strives for, and succesfully creates dreamy landscapes of trance-inducing sound that remains nevertheless well shaped. And while the extent to which Moonspeed succeeds is impressive, what is more impressive is the diversity of ways with which this is accomplished. And no less could really be expected from a band that, for example, lists two members as drummers and four (not entirely distinct) members as percussionists. But listening to the succession of tracks on Flowers of the Moon is really an impressive experience. The album opens with highly active yet unobtrusive percussion overlayed with lethargic synths from which slowly emerge strains of melody, guitars occasionally entering mostly for variation. The track is followed, however, by “Water’s Edge,” a highly acoustic, ploddingly beautiful track that could easily have stood to be a number of minutes longer. The third track then acts as some form of middle ground between the previous tracks, while still managing to sound completely unique, and the album proceeds from there.

Moonspeed enlists three members of their eleven-member set for the vocal sections of Flowers of the Moon, creating well-composed (if subdued), atmospheric vocals. Moonspeed’s members seem quite happy to have their voices on a level located below and around the main music, and as such they never take center stage. Instead, they act as an engaging layer to the music, complementary to the melodic mix of the music. Nevertheless, however well this combination works on certain tracks, such as “Saw a Ghost,” where the echoing sound of the vocal line emphasizes the busy sound of the track, in other places it ends up over-suppressing the vocals. Moonspeed’s mix of vocals is certainly strong enough to recieve more prominence on Flowers of the Moon, and it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t.

Though Moonspeed’s vocal line is generally of the ethereal, intentionally-difficult-to-understand sort, occasional phrases poke through, and the imagery they reveal certainly helps to develop the music. In one example, the questioning phrase “Where the river bends / In your mind / At the water’s edge / What will you find?” on “Water’s Edge” evokes the sense of introspection inherent to this sort of sonically rich music. Flowers of the Moon contains many of these short sections, each of which (should you fully understand them) helps to illuminate Moonspeed’s vision.

What keeps Flowers of the Moon from being an excellent album though, is that it does lose some of its edge as it progresses. Tracks like “Magna-Save” are perhaps just a tad bit too experimental, and devolve into playing around with various patches, throngs of unhelpful eccentricities, and overstayed welcomes. Still other tracks are uninteresting enough that, while not going to such an extreme as to be actually irritating, still don’t exactly help the album, and end up getting lost among the many other, significantly more memorable tracks.

With Flowers of the Moon, Moonspeed has clearly established itself as quite a formidable strength. Flowers of the Moon uses a combination of airy vocals, eloquent lyrics, and colorful instrumentals to create an interesting, engaging whole. However, it’s certainly not without flaws – the vocals would benefit from being placed further forward occasionally, and the odd instrumental misstep is jarring among a generally well-tuned musical flow. Overall, though, Flowers of the Moon is inventive, is largely enjoyable, and above all, makes for a very interesting listen.

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