28 April 2015

Moonbabies - Wizards On The Beach

I do like surprises; especially in the form of a flattering email (I knew my pretentious name would work eventually)!  Anyway over the last few days I have received an email from a band called Moonbabies from Malmö in Southern Sweden, bringing to my attention their latest release 'Wizards on the Beach'.  Formed by husband & wife duo Ola Frick & Carina Johannsson in 1997, they originally started off as a shoegazing/indie band in the style of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins, but since 2004 they have started to incorporate more electronic influences to their sound.  Several years have passed since their last release which was called ‘Moonbabies at the Ballroom’ and according to the press stuff they have taken time to find their sound without betraying their artistic sensibilities.  Now based in Berlin, they have taken influence from the local house scene and added to their own sound.  It is actually quite ironic that I got the email as I am sure I seen their name bouncing around and was looking to review it anyway - so I got to have a peak before the release. The cover is beautiful and looks very intriguing (another plus point in my book and would have made it a contender for the musical roulette game I play when I review artist I do not know based solely on the cover of the album).  But as the end of the day, the music is what we are here for; we are here to find out how good this album sounds, so let's find out.....

The track opens with the sound of a door opening and the band are straight into “Pink Heart Mother”, with a swirling mix of sounds that the audience have to jump between to find a rhythm to hold onto; it is an instant opening that gives way to a euphoric chorus that fill the world with a sense of joy and positive feelings.  There is a desire for change in this song in the lyrics (maybe it has been inspired by their change of global location), whatever the cause the music is catchy and reminds me of bands such as Ladyhawke and The Big Pink – a really good opening that fades to the strumming of an acoustic guitar and the background noise that links the song to the title track “Wizards on The Beach”.  A mixture of fast bass, looping guitar tones, basic drumming patterns and atmospheric sounds that keep this track moving at a fast pace; it is a contrast in style that works really well, there is ambition here that is match by the talent of the band.  I like it when bands have big ideas and they pull off what could not be achieved by other similar artists – I really do like this song an awful lot.  The third track is called “Raindrops” and sure enough it starts with the sound of rain as the instruments fade in to a solemn mournful sound, it actually reminds me of a song by Suede (not as in copying, but in regards to atmosphere) called “The Big Time”.  It is the sound of an ending in the rain and the desire to disappear to a more innocent age when everything was easier and not as complex.  I appreciate the song, it comes to an end with a halt for me; but it is still a good number.

Next up is “Eli In The Woods” which brings the energy back to the record; it has a happy go lucky (mostly) instrumental piece that swirls around and could actually be from a different decade with the rhythm and style that keeps on building up till the band once again hit the euphoric spot where it all seems like summer once more; but it also ends too soon for me, but at least it has a gentle guiding pattern down this time.  After this we are dropped into the psychedelic world of “Bird Lay Frue” which is led by Ola Frick through this dream-state song that feels like a drone in places and crosses over into 60’s/70’s montage sequence music when the couple are enjoying a pleasant afternoon in a field and relaxing in the hazy sun.  It is a relaxing number and when I say drone it is not looking down on the song; this review is being wrote by a man who love Sunn 0))) and sometimes listens to noise music to relax (closely followed by Prince), it just has a repetitive quality that is so easy to get lost in that (much like a dream) it is easy to focus on it and lose track of time whilst you are lost in this charming dream.  After this comes “Playground Dropouts” which in the first instant is my title of the album; I have an image of kids just saying stuff this and walking away from the crowd (much like I did in my youth), if only I had this song to play at the time as a walking away song.  This reminds me of MGMT and Lemon Jelly in places and it once again has a psychedelic edge to the music, mixed in with the electronic influences that makes this another little gem to be lost in; I really like this song a lot, it is different and keeps this interesting record moving along.

The seventh track is called “24” which is not a remaking of the theme from the popular USA TV series where Kiefer Sutherland is shot at a lot, but it is another atmospheric trip that begins in the distance and slowly fades in and gains focus until you can hear the drums, clicks and keyboards properly, then the acoustic guitar comes in and the song has a minimal vibe in the verses that really appeals to me, the lyrical enigma that can have different meanings to the author and to the audience, the chorus which adds everything back; the song is very strong and once more keeps you in that sweet place between waking and dreaming.  In fact I think I would say that it is my song of the album, it is a great number that keeps on revealing more with further listens. Starting with the sound of waves “Summerlong Wave” we are introduced to another fun filled number, which brings to mind those summer days at the beach and it also sounds like it would go down well on a summer’s night out or at a party.  The song is just another uplifting number on this album that takes all the album to another places; however once again (much like “Eli In The Woods” it ends a little too soon for me, but as I said I sometimes like songs that are pretty much the length of an album – so what would I know).  The penultimate track is “Chorus”, which was the first single to be released off the album.  The track itself once more keeps the relaxing tone that has been one of the calling cards of this record at the forefront of their sound, but this is the first pieces that feels a bit mellon collie to me; but this song regarding a love that is ending is beautiful pieced together and whilst sounding like a more focused version of Empire of the Sun, Moonbabies are guiding the listener to the end of the album.  This comes in the form of “The Ocean Kill”, which is the longest track on the album; this song is a huge statement, the drum beat is very Kate Bush, the sounds are fantastic and the building is perfect – it is a great ending to this album and ends with the sound of the sea fading away into the distance.

This album is a beautiful release, it has a strong nature feel (which is helped with a lot of the samples used throughout the album); the dream pop nature of the record is something that is very appealing and mixed in with a huge dose of psychedelic tunes & the shoegazing (once in a while drone-like) nature of their music is great.  I also like the way they present themselves and their music, it is positive to see the way they have invested in this project and how passionate they are about it as well.  As I said, a few of the songs could have been extended for me; but that is a personal thing and does not detract from the fact that this is a great release, it is a relaxing record that will be a great addition to this summer’s soundtrack. 

8 out of ten –
Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - 24

You can visit the band's website - you can order the album here

You can follow their activities on Facebook here

You can listen to some of their songs (plus a track from this album) on Soundcloud here

You can also see what they are doing on Twitter here

You can purchase the album directly from the band via Bandcamp

You can stream the album from Spotify here

For our Deezer users, here is a link for you 

Finally, for our Tidal users - here is a link for you guys

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