Flowers of the Moon (Flight Approved, 2009)
Byline: Since when could psych-rock make yer toes a-tap? Since now.
For: Six Organs of Admittance, Sigur Rós, Tortoise
Denver’s Moonspeed are no strangers to the wonders of psychedelia. The album titleFlowers of the Moon should be a first indication that the band wants to lift its listeners up into the mysteriously unknown beauty of outer-space. But outer-space can also, of course, be considered a cold and desolate place. Moonspeed remedies this truth, however metaphorically, by planting flowers on the moon. Oof. What a clunky analysis of a record title. But in all seriousness, there’s a certain warmth here that comes hand-in-hand with Moonspeed’s expansive 11-members-and-counting instrumental set up. The kind of warmth you can only find in sun-soaked fields, blooming with spring-time optimism and romanticized visions of untarnished and beautiful nature. Warmth in the full, open chord strums of electric guitar. Warmth in the spacious, reverby, echoey vocals. Warmth in swathes of ambient, harmonic drones. Warmth in the cymbal swells and gently percussive rhythms. Warmth in the buzzy synths that drive pretty melodies like a safari tour guide through forests of instrumental meanderings. It’s warm. Get it?
Given the above description of the band’s spacious, meticulously captured sound, I can’t find much else to call it other than “psychedelic rock,” especially when you look at both the Jefferson-Starship-light-show-esque cover art and the subject matter being explored here. Tracks have titles like “Wandering Sun,” and “Magna-Save,” and a lyric in “Harvest,” almost writes itself - “There is nothing lonelier than looking at the stars, we are so small.” But here’s something - psychedelic rock, in all its previous forms, incarnations, and experiments has, generally, one thing commonly: slooooow tempos. Flowers of the Moon definitely has moments of these meditative grooves, but the best songs light a flame ‘neath the ol’ metronome and ramp up the beat into something you might even call toe-tapping. Opener “Silent Sky,” employs this technique right away, giving the listener that feeling of celestial traveling, like being in slow motion while stars fly by at ungodly speeds. “Golden Clock” is another nice example with a tasty hi-hat groove reminiscent of Tortoise’s “Swung From the Gutters” off TNT.
A blanket of solemnity soothes these songs in that tragically beautiful way. It’s clear that leader and songwriter Jeff Suthers finds a comfortable spot in the world of the melancholic, but what’s especially nice is how the music never comes out emotionally overbearing or depressing. This is music to listen to not when you’re feeling bad about yourself or the world, but rather when you’re in that hopeful state, perhaps looking beyond the desolate, polluted, sky-scraping monuments of civilization. Take it with you on a sunny day for a walk through the park, bask in its cozy aura and remember that here is only here. What’s out there must certainly be a place toward which we can always look forward.