Is this the Best New Art Rock Album of the Year? THE MOULETTES and Preternatural

THE MOULETTES produce strong images, creative compositions, compulsive dramas and a number of other memorable moments too. They are famous for their three-part harmonies, amplified cello, distorted bassoon, funny auto-harp, mysterious guitar, and experimental rhythms — and all their songs come with a thick slice of black humor.

It was in early 2015, when reading an article in the New Scientist, that singer Hannah Miller began considering the concept for a new album — “I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world” said Hannah. “… The article compelled me to look deeper and start exploring all the surreal and beautiful diversity that exists. There’s so many phenomenal creatures out there we thought they deserved their own album.

The new Moulettes record aims to investigate and honor the richness and the engaging diversity that exists in our natural world, and to analyze our relationship to it … Our similarities, our differences and our role as guardians …

Preternatural (Bonus Track Version) - Moulettes
Preternatural (Bonus Track Version) – Moulettes

We had a listen:

The album opens with extensive power-yawns — created by hypnotic cello — these are coupled with pondering monster steps of rhythm and a strangely shaded 1960s style Public Service Announcement.

This slips into “Behemooth” as easily as a baleen whale sliding into the ridges.  An anxious piano key is eagerly-fingered and these tinkles meet up with the giant synth strides that march around the barony estate of the song with noble significance.

This is the most “prog-like” rock that we have ever heard from the Moulettes. Angry sheets of guitar, plus odd yet architectural time signatures, all tend to improve the atmosphere the number and give it gravitas. Of course, the sweet melodies and the heart-fluttering harmonies are still present. But here the vocals sprout like bluegrass fescues on Arctic cracks, rather than taking center stage (like they usually do) — and for this we are grateful. This is a very big number and very impressive too. And so it should be… It is, after all, describing the leviathans of the deep.

The second track on the album is entitled “Underwaterpainter.” On very dark nights, the seas can present us with some wonderful and beautiful spectacles. Sometimes these underwater paintings are the work of bright bioluminescent bloom or maybe cavorting jellyfish. So this song has that same firefly flicker and a watery texture.

But there is also a dark and sensual strip that runs right through it. Like a hunchback fin busting through the water. You  might adore the whale-song “wee-wees” (or maybe not,  we couldn’t decide. They might well be a Marmite addition to this song’s  recipe) — but you will almost certainly love the folds and neat pleats within the melody. And the dark husky voice that flirts with the others… This is heady and dramatic

 Moulettes - "heady and dramatic..."
Moulettes – “heady and dramatic…”

If you have ever looked at an oceanarium, you might have been fascinated by the puffer fish you see.

Puffer Fish Love” is a great track. It’s about these sugar toads and sea squabs. They are amongst some of the most poisonous things in our galaxy. Yet, like many fish, they are magically romantic too. The male, for example, will perform a jaunty dance to entice the female into his well-crafted Nazca nest.

After fertilisation, it is then the male’s role to look after the eggs. He performs this task with almost religious diligence. The vortexes are always spinning in this decorative song and the rhythms help to illustrate the nest-making rituals and the courtship. Sometimes, this track sounds like Latin rock fused with elegant jazz riffs. It is magical.

The album ends with the glittering glug and gulping bottled-crocking beat of “Silk.” This song attempts to unspin the mystery that is silk. Although many animals produce the fiber protein — spider silk is perhaps the most miraculous of all of these threads. Spiders produce at least six different types of wire, for things like hot air ballooning, knitting, trapping, drag-line acrobatics, nesting, and also communicating with others. They fix “warning lines” to their nests so that they can be alerted when the intruders are on the prowl. And we thought that spiders just made cobwebs!

The tendrils of ultra-thin softness and the delicate moonlight strands on this track help to amplify the incredible qualities of natural silk. So mystifying are its mechanical properties (tough as Kevlar, strong as steel) — silk seems almost miraculous. This is a fitting and enjoyable celebration.

Like most Moulettes recordings, this bristles with bellflower prettiness… it has great tufts of discordance and some glorious tussocks of harmony. But this new album is far less nebulous and confusing than previous offerings. And, frankly, it is much less avant-grade and hippie than we expected. And we think that is a good thing.

Here is a suitable candidate for best art rock album of the year.

Yes, it is full of jazz and classical moments — yet on the other hand it avoids lengthy meanderings and eccentric ingenuity … Instead the band concentrate on skilled song-building and creating some catchy melodies…

This is, by-and-large, tremendously satisfying melodic rock. And it will make you think!

Words: @neilmach 2016 ©


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