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MORAINE

Eclectic Prog • United States


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Moraine biography
"Saving progressive music from clichés since 2005" claim MORAINE from Seattle, with their tally of orientations and styles being both hard to pinpoint and likely to be regarded in various ways, while the music as a whole impresses, challenges, provokes. Their only record to date, Manifest Density, released in 2009 by MoonJune Records, is still counting generous praises.

In the center of the ensemble seems to be guitarist Dennis Ray, with a fulfilling career that stretches from the electronic affinities (EARTHSTAR during the 70s, works together with Richard PINHAS in recent years) and the past collaborations with Hector Zazou or musicians from KING CRIMSON, Ministry or Pearl Jam to playing and coordinating nowadays several eclectic musical projects, out of which MORAINE is just one such noteworthy name. He also brings forth the sound of world music and Asian traditions (from which point of view, his study Live At The Forbidden City: Musical Encounters in China and Taiwan, can be something of interest).

Certainly notable is how the other members of this original quintet have an almost entirely different background (with a long, impossible to mention here, list of individual collaborations and projects), to which to add the not-so-compatible orientations mastered by each individually. Alicia Allen (electric guitar, violin) and Jim DeJoie (reeds, flute, percussion) have played together with the band Eric Apoe and They, plus with Dennis Ray in Daniel Barry's Walk All Ways; otherwise Allen is passionate about Latin jazz, while DeJoie is a more versatile musician, specialized in multi-genred broadly instrumental jazz, electronic or world music and being a classical soloist as well. Kevin Millard, with a gift in free improvising, switched during his career from experimental and avant-garde to rock and pop. Last but not least, Stephen Cavit, playing here drums, is furthermore a film composer. Past members were drummer Jay Jaskot and Ruth Davidson playing cello.

If in few terms, MORAINE can be highly appreciated for their intense, dark, slightly deconstructive approach of jazz & fusion, that further extends into what certainly is avant/experimental territory. Even with the main components being interpreted freely, organically, cerebrally or aggressively, there can still be space for electronic, the oriental spices, fractured bebop or smaller unsorted elements. The same style-morphing tends to be hinted when it's being linked...
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Manifest DensityManifest Density
Moonjune Records 2009
Audio CD$11.77
$7.25 (used)
Metamorphic RockMetamorphic Rock
Moonjune Records 2011
Audio CD$3.99
$3.99 (used)
GroundswellGroundswell
Moonjune Records 2014
Audio CD$10.36
$8.49 (used)
Manifest Density by Moraine [Music CD]Manifest Density by Moraine [Music CD]
Moonjune Records
Audio CD$29.81
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MORAINE discography


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MORAINE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.95 | 18 ratings
Manifest Density
2009
3.64 | 5 ratings
Groundswell
2014

MORAINE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.53 | 8 ratings
Metamorphic Rock
2011

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MORAINE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Manifest Density by MORAINE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.95 | 18 ratings

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Manifest Density
Moraine Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Seattle-based band Moraine came in life in 2005 and its father is guitarist Dennis Rea, who has been an experienced professional musician for over two decades.Rea started his career with the Kraut-Electronic act Earthstar in late-70's and later he appeared in the Land project of Jeff Greinke, a band that played a mix of Electronic and Folk Music.But his collaborations include names such as Trey Gunn, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, R.E.M. as well as a few solo albums of Free Jazz/Improvisation.In Moraine he originally recruited Alicia Allen on violin, Kevin Millard on bass, Ruth Davidson on cello and Jay Jaskot on drums, the band was then discovered by Moonjune Records and released the debut ''Manifest density'' in 2009.

I do not know if the title was accidentally chosen, both words characterize Moraine's sound pretty good, the music is extremely dense and competes for a manifest of styles, including Prog Rock, Zeuhl, Avant-Garde, Jazz-Fusion and Experimental Rock.Those particular styles tend to be rather chaotic as a mix and Moraine's sound can be efficiently be described as such, it contains hints from the music of KING CRIMSON, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, FRANK ZAPPA and even covers the ground of R.I.O.-styled music with strings in evidence.The music ranges from rich and dominant string-based Fusion with some incredible guitar chops by Rea in the process to very loose jams with an experimental mood akin to KING CRIMSON, which even flirt with improvised stylings.Most pieces with the violin in evidence contain both romantic parts and virtuosic mannerisms with a jazzy attitude in the vein of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA and even DIXIE DREGS, propelled by the nice battles between the strings and Rea's sharp guitar moves.The cello-drenched themes are closer to R.I.O., the music again contains both laid-back and denser moments, but the more abstract and dissonant passages appear here.Rea often takes the lead and his guitar work is always technical, energetic and diverse.The result is a mix of nice and not so good pieces, featuring both atonal and more ''progressive'' moments.

Weird album indeed, but overall pretty satisfying.Avant Prog meets Fusion meets Experimental Rock.Too professional for its own good but still recommended.

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 Groundswell by MORAINE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.64 | 5 ratings

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Groundswell
Moraine Eclectic Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars 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.

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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 Groundswell by MORAINE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.64 | 5 ratings

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Groundswell
Moraine Eclectic Prog

Review by Progulator

3 stars Few bands have come out of nowhere to surprise me like Moraine. About a year ago I was seated at the Nor Cal prog festival, waiting for the first band to come on stage. It wasn't like it was a band I'd never heard of?Moraine, the Seattle based jazz-rock outfit, had spun a bit in my CD player with their live album from Nearfest?but that night when I witnessed them in San Mateo it was a whole nother beast. Everything was perfect, from the studio-level clarity of the mix to the power and ferocity with which the band performed, making the festival opener the highlight performance of the night. After the show, and subsequently at Baja Prog, I got a chance to chat with the band and they commented that they were doing a new album. As I was anxious to see what these guys would come out with, I was naturally pleased when their latest release, Groundswell, arrived at my doorstep.

The opener, "Mustard Seed," launches us into a realm that is immediately dark and pensive. Capitalizing on its doomy pace and slightly eastern melodic flavor, this simple song does a fantastic job at building into a massive onslaught of power and texture. While the pace is quite different, "Synecdoche" similarly favors a huge sound, this time with an emphasis on upbeat, heavy drumming throughout, thickly distorted jazzy chords on the guitar, and delicious bari-sax riffing, making for an all out aggressive approach. "Gnashville" provides an interesting blend of heavy jazz-prog with a country twang and an overall raucous feel, while "Skein" leads us along with some groovy Chapman Stick riffing in 7 that provides lots of space for soloing. The real highlights of this piece though are the marvelous transition from sax solos to violin which plunges us deep into tension. And I'm not going to lie, the way the band builds into a frantic and all out, in-your-face climax really brought a smile to my face. Listen loud.

When it really comes down to what grabs me about Moraine though, it's their masterful ability to incorporate oriental music elements into a distinctive brand of jazz-prog. One of the most recognizable pieces, and a standout of their live performances, would be the album closer, "The Okanogan Lobe." This wonderful piece lands on a seamless combination of jazz and eastern melodies, churning out everything from exciting fugues and upbeat riffs to the powerful chord progression that builds heavy sax playing alongside guitar improvisations and harmonies into a moving final variation on the main theme. "Spiritual Gatecrasher" provides quite a distinct take on the eastern feel, this time with lots of quirkiness as it features the flute as a principle instrument and makes effective use of jolting transitions, strange digital effects on the sax, folk-tinged percussion, and lots of open canvas for mysterious improvisation. Undoubtedly the most experimental piece on the album in terms of jazz or prog, however it somehow manages to pull in a more authentic eastern flavor than any other track in its musings that, while perhaps excessive for some, were delightful to my ears. With "Fountain of Euthanasia" Moraine brings us a beautiful oriental jazz-rock piece full of weaving melodies and fascinating shifts in mood. The way the bass flawlessly compliments the violin melodies, as well as Rea's 8th note stream of guitar starting in the middle section all builds towards a moment of supreme tension where a series of dramatic chord changes over gong-like effects lead to an explosive outro.

Finally, I must mention "In that Distant Place," perhaps one of the most evocative pieces on the album. The song kicks it off with the sax and violin splitting a variation on the melody before the violin pulls it in all alone, once again with a strong Chinese folk touch due to it's being based on a traditional tune. As it moves into the B section, variation adds a slightly more mysterious tone which serves as a perfect transition into a freer, more ambient section led by moody drumming, slowly plucked guitar chords, and a bit of sax adding light improvisations. As the sax makes its exit, the band brings it down another notch to give space for the violin, creating an absolutely haunting feel. Its initial raw tone is wonderfully complimented by random interjections of reverby violin in the background. After an eventual return to the main theme Moraine ends it off with a twist, taking us in an unexpected jazzy direction replete with quick drumming and sax riffing, all of which holds the ground down for Rea's guitar improvisations.

Groundswell, in my opinion, is a huge album for Moraine, marking a step forward in their songwriting as well as capturing the magic on a studio recording, something that I feel was missing on their first studio release, Manifest Destiny, an album which exhibited great songs but had production values that didn't pack nearly as much punch as the band actually has in a live setting. With Groundswell we get everything that makes Moraine a great band, from the catchy melodies to the avant-deviations and heavy Chinese folk influences. If you ever get a chance to see these guys live, you're in for a real treat, but if they aren't coming through your neighborhood Groundswell will certainly clue you in on what makes Moraine tick.

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 Metamorphic Rock by MORAINE album cover Live, 2011
4.53 | 8 ratings

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Metamorphic Rock
Moraine Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars One year after their stunning debut Moraine found themselves at NEARFest, by which time the line-up had changed. Stephen Cavitt was now sat in the drum seat, but the most interesting change was the departure of cellist Ruth Davidson and the introduction of James DeJoie (baritone saxophone, flute and percussion). This has changed the dynamic of the band for the better, as they have even more depth and width than previous. The album itself contains interpretations from Dennis's solo album 'Views From Chicheng Precipice', which although not released until 2010 had been recorded prior to Moraine's debut and featured all of those who had been involved with 'Manifest Density' as well as James, plus of course songs from the debut plus some that have yet to be made available elsewhere.

This is fusion combined with avant-garde combined with prog combined with whatever on earth they feel like playing at the time. Although there is more improvisation with this album than with the debut, as would be expected in front of a live audience, there is still the complex control that made the debut so impressive. The use of baritone sax definitely gives the band a bottom end that previously was unavailable, and the loss of the cello is not noticed. There are times in some of the longer numbers when the guys suddenly take off and it is if they are as one, a multi-armed multi-headed being that is in total control although it may seem that anarchy is going to prevail. They can go from chaos to structure at will, and the change is so dramatic that it catches the listener off guard.

I gave the debut 5 *'s, and rightfully so, but I want to give this one more!!!! www.moonjune.com

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 Manifest Density by MORAINE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.95 | 18 ratings

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Manifest Density
Moraine Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars Playing this album now, some four years after it was originally released, it is somewhat hard to realize that this is a debut. Here is a band that somehow fuses the strange weird anarchy of Art Zoyd with traditional Chinese influences, avant-garde jazz, hard rock and everything in between. The name of the band is in itself a clue to the music to be found inside the covers, as it is often defined as "An accumulation of boulders, stones, or other debris carried and deposited by a glacier". What we have here are various talents who have somehow ended up in the same place and have formed a band, and sometimes they even sound as if they are on the same planet. I don't want it to seem that there is no structure to what they are doing ? rather it is the opposite, the only way musicians can play so diversely yet make total musical sense at all times is by having an innate agreement and strong understanding of the direction.

The line-up on the debut is Dennis Rea (electric guitar), Ruth Davidson (cello), Alicia Allen (violin), Kevin Millard (bass, baliset) and Jay Jaskot (drums) and while the rhythm section provides the foundation the three melody players vie for centre stage. I have lost count of how much I have been playing this, as it is one of those albums that has somehow refused to be review as every time I have tried to write the words I have instead sat back and let this incredible album flood over me. Personal favourite (today) is the title song, which starts with a repeated guitar line which is then joined by the others. Amazingly, this album was recorded in just three days yet is highly complex with purpose and direction. There is a real sense of togetherness and understanding of the journey to be followed which is often missing from this style of music where those involved are creating the path as they go along. Here the path is known, if only to them, and they follow it to new heights as if they know the route to the top, which may seem either impassable or invisible to others.

An absolutely stunning album from the first note to the last.

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 Metamorphic Rock by MORAINE album cover Live, 2011
4.53 | 8 ratings

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Metamorphic Rock
Moraine Eclectic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars Denis Rea and his Moraine live at Nearfest 2010.

It is odd when a band release one studio album and then follows it up with a live album. In this case, the matter is not that simple. Yes, this is a Moraine live album. But the material here also incorporate Denis Rea's material from outside Moraine too. He released the excellent solo album Views From Chicheng Precipice in his very busy year annus stressilis 2010. Maybe not good Latin, but you get my drift. And then there was the Iron Kim Style album too.

Moraine gives us over an hour of intense eclectic progressive rock which reminds me about the music Mahavishnu Orchestra gave us back in the 1970s. Moraine is in the same territory. Listening to this album is a perspiring experience due to the intensity of the music. But this album and the live performance also have a more thoughtful segment in the form of a ten minutes long suite (Disoriental Suite) lifted from Denis Rea's abovementioned solo album Views From Chicheng Precipice. A superb suite, it is. The rest of this live album is also great with an emphasis of breaking down barriers between jazz and prog. The rhythm structures is eclectic. The music is played as in fusion. This album straddles both genres with some Yes structures played with a Mahavishnu Orchestra like intensity and musicianship.

This is by no means easy listening music so beware. But this album is worth checking out if intense eclectic prog, bordering to fusion, is your thing. But don't expect an easy ride.

4 stars

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 Manifest Density by MORAINE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.95 | 18 ratings

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Manifest Density
Moraine Eclectic Prog

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator Symphonic Prog Specialist

4 stars A challenge to the senses

Each time I receive one of this album collections from Leonardo "Moonjune" Pavcovic, my taste expands more, because I used toe a simple Symphonic Prog fan that sometime bought some Prog Related albums, but this packages have created a new addiction for extremely complex and intelligent music that "Moonjune Records" signs with.

After opening every album, I noticed that the concept of Jazz + Rock equal Fusion, is something from the past, because contemporary bands add more and more different elements as the time passes, but this guys from MORAINE have really broken all my schemes, their album "manifest deNsity" consists in one surprise after another, something that makes the job of a reviewer harder, but the musical experience more satisfactory, specially for somebody who hates predictable music.

Even when the Jazz structure is clear and obvious for any listener, this guys are experts breaking boundaries, because they show influence of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, KING CRIMSON, ZAPPA, etc (For God's sake I even listen some KANSAS hints) with an Avant Garde and RIO touch. The strange thing is that I'm not a fan of most of this artists, but I enjoy the ability to maintain an extremely complex and elaborate structure but without loosing the ability to jam when necessary.

Normally I make track by track reviews, except when I write about Fusion bands because it's extremely difficult top make justice to the general mood of the album, and in this case it's even harder, being that MORAINE has such a diversity of influences and styles that would be an almost impossible task.

But still I have to mention at least three tracks, the frenetic and eclectic "Save the Yuppie Breeding Grounds", where the extravagant caprice of Jazz blends with the dark mysterious sounds of ethnic music and "Manifest Density" which kept me at the edge of the sit with the breathtaking guitar and Jazz performance enhanced with the intense violin sections and perfect percussion, disturbing and enjoyable.]

Last but not least, the nostalgic and experimental "Revenge Grandmother", a song that challenges the preconceived ideas I had about music, something that after 3 decades of Prog listening is hard to achieve.

So, again I'm before a great Fusion album that deserves no less than 4 solid stars.....Highly recommended.

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 Manifest Density by MORAINE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.95 | 18 ratings

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Manifest Density
Moraine Eclectic Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

4 stars Trying to explain this album is a challenge.

In Moraine, the excellent writer and guitarist Dennis Rea has made a big, bold statement. I am not so sure if this review will do the same, but I will do my best though.

Excuses submitted........

Moraine is not making things easy for themselves or the listeners with their dense and mostly disharmonic soundscape. The emphasis is on violins, cello and guitars. This is an instrumental album. The first musical and I am sure; philosophical reference is King Crimson. Secondly a fusion band like Mahavishnu Orchestra and bands like Aranis and the chamber rock scene within the RIO movement. The jazz ethos runs through this album though as a guiding beacon.

The music is very dense at times and offers little rest for the ears. Most of this album is very intense and driven. But it also have some nice reflective pieces of music too with some wonderful guitar solos. But I will most of all remember this album as an intensive album.

Melody wise, this is not a great album. But this album has the X-Factor I cannot really put my finger on. No, it has nothing to do with non-musical stuff. There is something here which draws me back to this album like a box of tuna fish attracts a cat. I am purring when I hear this album, but don't know why. This makes this album a great album in my view and I have been listening to it for the best part of two months now. Far too long, in fact. It is a grower album which needs time to really settle. I do put this album next to my King Crimson albums and that is probably another reason why I like it so much.

This album is impossible to describe, but still a great album.

4 stars

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 Manifest Density by MORAINE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.95 | 18 ratings

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Manifest Density
Moraine Eclectic Prog

Review by js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars Sounding somewhat like a mix of Lark's Tongue in Aspic, Fred Frith's Gravity, Bartok string quartets and McLaughlin's Indo - fusion, Moraine's Manifest Density draws on Progressive Rock's past, but synthesizes something totally fresh and new at the same time. With two string players on board they are able to expand further on the violin-rock sound initiated by Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson. In fact, it's that seamless mix of semi-sting section and jazz-rock trio that is the hallmark of this band's sound.

Although this band can improvise on a scale comparable to the best fusion bands, their love of progressive rock composition often makes them more similar to jazzy prog-rock bands such as Focus or Quiet Sun. Meanwhile, their tendency to favor heavy diminished scale riffs with odd-metered rhythms will bring on the Mahahavishnu/Crimson reference again. To their credit though, despite all the obvious tributes to their favorites of the past, Moraine never sounds cheaply derivative or short on original musical ideas. Also, their tendency towards the occasional 'pretty' melody or chord progression makes them different from the harsher members of the jazz-rock set. Album closer, Middlebrau, in particular recalls a classic escalating 'prog-rock' chord progression, but with a more modern less indulgent approach.

Like many of the artists on the Moonjune label, Moraine has a very pure 'live' sound with little or no overdubbing or slick studio technology. The exact antithesis of ambient nu jazz, acid jazz, trip-hop or much of today's post-Laswell neo-psychedelic music, the individual musical lines of each player can be clearly heard and they are not buried beneath reverb, echo and a plethora of modern 'dubbing' techniques. If you are looking for a modern and original extension of bands like King Crimson, Henry Cow and Mahavishnu Orchestra, Moraine has it.

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