7 Nov 2015
Moonwood – Desert Ghosts
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
Moonwood have come a long way since Jakob Rehlinger’s first solo Moonwood release in 2007, with latest opus “Desert Ghosts” being the most fully realised release in an impressive catalogue.
Adding vocalist / synth wizard Jacqueline Noire in 2009 was just the beginning, with the band now sporting the impressive rhythm section of Matthew Fava (bass) and Luca Capone (drums). There’s always been a sort of Krauty space-rock element to Rehlinger’s music, but now that he can ditch the loopers and rely on a real, live rhythm section this is taken to new levels.
Split into two side long suites (with five distinct tracks per suite), “Desert Ghosts” is a concept album that explores the vast, open spaces of the American desert on side one, and parallels that with the desert world Arrakis from Frank Herbert’s popular “Dune” novels on side two. It’s a suitably grand setting for music this expansive with plenty of exotic, Eastern themes winding their way in among the driving guitars and cosmic synth washes.
Capone’s solid, metronomic beats (Neu! Fans, prick up your ears), provide the perfect backdrop for the band’s explorative expeditions, offering a precise framework that helps even the most improvised elements of the band’s music retain a structure that the listener can keep up with. And then there are the moments where the rhythm section drops out completely, leaving Noire’s wordless vocals and Fava’s serpentine violin parts to take centre stage, with spine-tingling results.
There’s a perfect balance struck here between the explorative, the hypnotically repetitious, and a more structured play on conventional songcraft, which makes this a thoroughly unpredictable ride which challenges and rewards the listener in equal measure, while evoking the desolate, open stretches of its source material with apparent ease.
Kudos to the cover artist too – not too sure who’s responsible for this, but it’s not often that you find a sleeve that so perfectly encapsulates its contents.
Vinyl and digital available here: