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Moth Vellum - Moth Vellum CD (album) cover

MOTH VELLUM

Moth Vellum

 

Symphonic Prog

3.80 | 70 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This was certainly another unexpected surprise from the USA, already throwing me for a loop with the Astra debut album the Weirding. These California boys are heavily indebted to Yes what with Johannes Luley's crisp Steve Howe-like guitar playing, Tony Lynham's elegant keyboard work and Ryan Downie's occasionally high-pitched bellow that recalls Jon Anderson. I do not feel like they are a Yes clone a la Starcastle, truth is they have a style that is structurally different from their idols , incorporating fresh elements that wink at other past prog legends (the Steve Hillage-like vocal and guitar mood on the otherwise hippy- trippy "Against the Suns", for example ). The opener "Let the Race Begin" is aptly titled, an immediate deep water symphonic dive into their luxuriant prog-rock, influences loosely worn on their cuffs. On occasion as on the palpitating "Whalehead", the harmony vocal work and crunchy guitar swaths certainly hint at the classic sound but it's never overpowering or overt. Drummer Matt Swindells hints more at Alan White square rock style than Bruford's complex poly rhythmics. "Salvo" in particular reveals itself to be a modern symphonic masterpiece, with a thundering drum-fueled intro that blooms into some low-key moods, the choppy bass upfront like you know who and a rumbling synthesized steamroller that devastates in its wake. The dreamy sections recall Hillage-era psychedelia, Downie's sweet voice almost female in timbre with sparse instrumental passages, until a soaring, "reach for the skies" slide guitar explosion takes over in perfect timing. The unhurried restraint is wholly evident here and is to be commended , a clear sign of musical genius and artistic confidence. A pinch of Genesis and Rush only add to the glee. The sweeping guitar makes a resonating appearance once again amid the dense symphonics, keeping the arrangement pulsating and vibrant. "Against the Suns" is an epic yet gentle adventure into a variety of moods and atmospheres, almost ambient at times, that further entices the listener's desire for sonic escape. The brief Gong-era psychedelic tendencies are explicit, loopy synth patterns vying with the melody and vocals, love being the theme espoused. Slick strumming only adds to the joy. "Walk it Off" is of the same length, offering more sonic introspection and exquisite interplay, never coming off showoff-ish or overblown. I deeply admire obvious artistic restraint and Moth Vellum seems to know the prog groove drill: "Keep it cool yet exciting". Massive contrasts in sound and volume, mood and atmosphere make this a highlight track, a wonderful playground to enjoy and exalt in. The brightly sad vocals here peculiarly recall Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree notoriety with a dash of Sting and of course a hint of Anderson. When Luley's axe gets huffy and puffy, we are rewarded by some anxiously delectable moments, a lush piano side door opens when least expected, marshalling the track back onto the main road. The exit section becomes experimental, recalling Happy the Man in complexity and scope, offering up great backing vocals, a bopping bass line, a series of volume pedal guitar solos and some sassy interplay in between. The sparkling debut disc waves goodbye with an engaging reprise of "Against the Suns" with its raspier vocal, placid lilt, pillowed sonic clouds resting against the warm rays, an intricately woven guitar excursion lays this one to rest, sweeping strings in the background. Bravo, all around , look very much forward to their sophomore release.

4 deserved butterfly parchments

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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