5 March 2016

Momohaus - Love Sparkles

For many weeks I have been trying to get my head back in the game when it comes to reviewing; being a little tired and starting a new job has put me off my game, but enough about my own problems.  It is now that I can review the much delayed release of the second album from American Kraut-electronica influenced Momohaus, coming from our good friends at Sweet Sounds Records.  They are comprised of Billy Jackson & Martin Harper and to be honest, that is all the information I have for you; but do not let this brief beginning fool you, this is a long album (thankfully not Dream Theater long) so let us begin…..

Starting the album is “Full of Feather” which introduces the audience to an ambient and quiet world, your mind is given time to wonder with the music and expand with the song.  It has plenty of space between each phase of the song and you are not rushed from one part to another, each shift is completed with ease and it does not rush to get you from one point to the next.  Even towards the end when a fast synth/guitar sound comes into play, it is still all fluid and relaxing.  “We Are We” has an urgent beginning in comparison to “Full of Feather” which reminds me of the early 90’s UK electronica scene when house music was still minimalist enough and vocals were frowned upon in any way, shape or form.  It is the tracks progression that interest me here on this track; whilst it does not move too far away from its central theme, it still has enough energy and changing pitch to keep the listener engaged and ends before it has outstayed its welcome; this album is becoming very chilled out from the beginning and we have a fare few tracks to going.  With a bass drop and harsher synth drops, “Angel Man” slips further back to an 80’s electronica sound.  Some of the pitches on this one clash too much for comfort and it feels as if two different songs are happening on the same tune.  It is still a decent number, but not a patch on the first two.  “Shower of Joy” is a low pitched minimalist industrial beast of a song that keeps everything as tight as possible without wasted sound or motion being applied to the tune.  It has an aggressive feeling, but there is still not much going on in the way you would find in a song by Aphex Twin for example or Shut Up & Dance.  The best way I can make a comparison is if The Orb ditched their fluffy clouds and started listening to Ghosts I-IV by Nine Inch Nails.  It is a fractured and beautiful number, it makes you concentrate on it and you are not allowed to lose focus.  “Venus Blister” ends the first third of the album with another ambient piece of chill out that has a conflicting set of synth noises rattling for your attention at the same time; you have the long held notes that want to take you mind away and the short, bass driven notes which work with the drum pattern that seem to fight with the eerie noise of the high end notes.  It is an easy song to get and is still one I enjoy, but the sounds are not the easiest ones to harmonise or the most obvious ones that you would have put together.

“Green Acid” is the sixth song on this album and the industrial is in control once more, with an aggressive piece of drumming and on top is the most minimal of synth patterns and chimes that work a lot better than the two pieces “Venus Blister”.  It is such a relaxing song that you would be completely right to drift in the void of the song and immerse yourself into the part in between the drumming and those ethereal sounds of the keyboard; it is one of my favourite passages of the album and one that I have returned to even in my own personal listening time (ie – when I am not in review mode).  “Nomad” an interesting tune, starting with a sound which mixes the buzz of crickets and helicopters, it feels like you are in the middle of the sun as the bass rumbles into your sound range every now and then before the heavier synth sounds come into play.  The song has a naturalist feeling engraved into the very core of the song on this one, which is a hard trick to do at times with electronica these days.  It is a great song on this album, one which moves from which such a linear progression that it is hard not to be impressed by the song and want to reach for the repeat button.  “Hot Heap” is a song that gives that signals that we are about to reach the top of a summit on this album, that our epic journey is heading towards the endgame of the album (but there is still a little way to go at this point).  The song has a similar sort of hiss at the beginning as we encountered with “Nomad”, but the summer is fading into the background and the journey is now heading towards a ‘Blade Runner’ Utopia and city-scape feeling; you can imagine being on a bashed up train going through the neon-light industrial landscape.  It is a song that is brilliant in its current form, very minimal and sparse with little in the way to take you attention away from the synth pieces that are presented to you; it is also one of many songs on the album which will soar when a remix of it is produced, not a club one as that would be a crime against music – but it does have potential for an addition or two to be added and I like that feeling that the song gives out; it is a finished article, but there is more that it can also do along the way.  “Sillywet” is the last song in the second third of this album, it is a song that takes a little bit longer to get into for my tastes.  It certainly can be argued that this is one of the busier songs on the record, which an underlying rhythm that continues throughout the song and drives the number from beginning to end, the higher patterns that are thrown on top of it in a carefree way are just as interesting as the bass pattern.  But it is a song which you have to bear with, it needs repeated listens to reach its full potential and when it gets there you are amazed it took you as long as it has to reach an understanding with the song – the title is pants though, sorry on that but it would have the Colonel saying it was very silly and moving you gracefully onto the next song.  The next song is called “Dreamsoul” and it starts with the sound of chimes that are in a storm whilst the voices of ghostly choir’s drift through the air as the world is waiting for some sort of attack.  Momohaus then drop one of the more aggressive songs from this album onto the audience as the bass builds the anticipation up, there are hints of subtle synth coming in and out of your hearing range as the bass grows around you, but it all keeps dropping until the percussion kicks in and a sound that can only be compared to a demonic jester’s flute drifts into the song as the tension builds up around the song.  This is hand’s down the best song on the album, it is still a minimal beast by comparison to other songs in the world, but it just nails all aspects of this band for me perfectly in sound and it is one that escapes the confined of the work itself (more on that later).

The last third of the album starts off with “Cerbera” which drifts around you like a haze in the desert.  It is full of a tense atmosphere, not unfriendly at all but not welcoming.  The aggression behind the song is palatable, in a way that Aphex Twin manages with “Widowlicker”; however, the characteristic that makes this song stand out is the fact it achieves this in this minimalist fashion, without half as many sounds or noise as its famous twin.  This is something to applaud, it might not be the best track on the album but it still an intriguing one nevertheless.  “Invisible” is a contradiction to its title, as it is one of the busiest songs on the album so I think that Harper & Jackson love to play with words as well as sonic frequencies. As a song, it could be forgiven for being mistaken as originating in the 1980’s with its happier patterns and sounds, mixes with the ethereal voices hidden in the mix.  It is another song which is perfect for reflection and being in the background of your thoughts whilst the day is streaming past you, the sun does shine bright on this one even with the strange name for such a vibrant and bright song.  Next is “Sunlife (Car Mix)” which piles on the minimalist ambient sounds to the album, it all sounds as everything has been stripped down to the bone and reconstructed in mechanical form.  The drum machine parts sound like the insects have developed metal exoskeletons and the machine have finally won in a Terminator style war and whilst it is a little different to some of the other track, it does show that different mixes for this album could be something that they explore at a different juncture.  The final curtain for this album is drawing near as penultimate song “Daiya” drifts into view.  With this song they delve further into the minimal cyber world which was hinted at on “Sunlife (Car Mix)” and whilst the song itself is good, I have the feeling that this is one that could have been improved with a length build in a mix set such as when The Orb were first on the scene.  It feels like it is part of the journey and having a beginning and an end to the sound does not suit it too well.  It is still good, but it is missing something else as well.  Ending the album is “Perchance” which brings the heavy sound to the album, it is very sinister and gives off menace from the opening beat to the very last sound.  You can see once again feel the machines have won as we reach the end has enough textures and changes to justify it being the ending song on this album.

So, how has it all come together?  Momohaus have created an ambient album which is one that will be both challenging and open for re-working.  It feels as if there are themes in here that the band can (and hopefully will) return to and explorer.  The similar length between the tracks means that nothing outstays its welcome, however it also means that certain songs feel as if they could have been given a little more room to breathe.  This will not be for everyone, yet this is not the purpose of this record and that is how it should be; I can see this being something that will mature over the years and it has more potential than anything else I have heard this year to make me regret the mark I am giving it today.  They are a band who are on a tiny label and they are also worth investing in; if you are wanting to see what it is like out there far from the beaten path of electronica, get this album as it will give you a lot of pleasure.

7.5 out of ten – This is good and worth checking out

Top track – Dreamsoul

You can purchase Love Sparkles on the Sweet Sound Records Bandcamp here

Momohaus do not have a website, but here is a link to their personal Bandcamp page (album is not currently available on their Bandcamp at the time of writing)

You can visit the Facebook of Sweet Sound Records here

At time of writing, Love Sparkles is not available on streaming sites.

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