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(52:23, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Mustardseed 3:11 2. Skein 3:52 3. Fountain of Euthanasia 3:25 4. Gnashville 4:12 5. In That Distant Place 6:20 6. Synecdoche 3:52 7. The Earth Is an Atom 5:12 8. Waylaid 7:20 9. Spiritual Gatecrasher 7:18 10. The Okanogan Lobe 7:41 LINEUP: Alicia DeJoie violin James DeJoie saxophone, flute Dennis Rea guitars; Mellotron; electronics Kevin Millard NS stick bass Tom Zgonc drums
Prolusion. The US band MORAINE was formed back in 2005, and has quickly been established as a quality band for those in the know with an interest in music that ventures outside of the proverbial box, a reputation that landed them a spot at the new defunct festival Nearfest a few years back. "Groundswell" is their second full length studio recording, and was released through the US label Moonjune Records in the fall of 2014.
Analysis. As with many other artists signed to Moonjune Records, Moraine is an instrumental band. And while this band's particular style may be discussed at some length, they appear to have a foundation inside jazz rock or fusion. And while Moraine is a band that does take this blend also outside of jazz and jazz rock as people in general would regard it, my personal opinion is that this is where this band should be classified, and it's among fans of this type of music that they will find the greater majority of their fans. There are reasons for bringing this topic into a review of course, and one of them is the exquisite composition named Gnashville. A creation which indeed does bring elements of country music into the blend, with guitar and violin the main providers, but exploring it inside a framework of dark and foreboding textures with more of a jazz rock feel to them, but later on also sporting some of the most ominous guitar details I have encountered this side of Nazareth's No Mean City. Later on Spiritual Gatecrasher showcases that the band has a more delicate side to them as well, on this occasion exploring lighter toned and more exotic sounding territories, while Waylaid sees the band shifting to a gliding, surging textured expression that comes pretty close to meriting a description as cosmic in the midsection. There's just about always at least one element maintaining a jazz or jazz rock oriented sound to it though, and as Moraine also operates outwards from a foundation that generally merits a description along those lines this will fix their potential reach to that audience segment. Besides utilizing some unusual blends and a certain affection for dark, foreboding moods and atmospheres, Moraine uses and explores the possibilities their chosen line-up gives them in a generally intriguing manner. One might argue that they appear to focus a bit more on moods and atmospheres and not quite as much on melodies, harmonies and contrasts, but in this case I suspect this boils down to a question of subjective perspective and musical knowledge to a greater extent than an actual focus by the band in one direction or the other. But they do use the elements at their disposal very well, with the violin used for frail delicate motifs as well as more mournful details and the occasional distorted, tortured effects, the saxophone alternates between playful leads and soloing, for the latter usually paired off with at least one more instrument, but also as a backing instrument with a subservient role and then primarily focusing on the darker notes of the register when employed in that manner. The stick is given occasional moments of dominance but is mainly subservient, despite some fairly loud and booming motifs fired off at times, while the guitar has multiple roles and functions throughout. In terms of versatility the guitar is in the central limelight on this production, and even when used in a subservient manner the role of this instrument is vital throughout.
Conclusion. Moraine's second studio album "Groundswell" comes across as a breath of fresh air for me. Vibrant and engaging instrumental music that explores the contrast between frail, light toned and delicate instrument details and dark ominous motifs quite nicely, and does so within a jazz rock or fusion framework that allows for room to add some unexpected twists and details here and there. Strong moods and atmospheres are key features, and those who enjoy instrumental fusion liberally flavored with foreboding atmospheres and a touch of the unexpected here and there should take the time to give this CD an inspection.
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