Mothlite - The Flax of Reverie
Record Label: Southern Records
Release Date: Jan. 27, 2009 (June 16, 2008 in UK)
Naming your band after a movie is one thing. But naming a band after a movie and creating music that matches the feel of the movie is another thing entirely. That lofty ambition was tackled by the British duo Mothlite, who draws their name from the avant-garde Stan Brakhage film. Self-described as an attempt to reflect the dark of the underground and the colors of the day, their six-song offering The Flax of Reverie is a towering, triumphant disc that's backed by gorgeous piano lines, ebullient strings and haunting choral madrigals.
The sojourn begins with the unconventional opener, "Riverside," which reuses the sole verse, "Shadow lies on the riverside," at least a dozen times. This is normally a convention that's uninspiring, blatant and reckless, but on this song it works incredibly well. Daniel O'Sullivan's muted vocals are light and almost inaudible, allowing the music to step into the foreground. The album can hang it's hat on second track "One in the Water," a sweet gem that features a half-dozen verses and a bit more vocal work than on the opener. Truth be told, the vocals probably could have been kicked up a notch here, but that's small potatoes really. Of all the songs on the EP, this is the one that's the most commercially viable and probably the easiest to draw in the casual fan. It's thickly textured and woodwind-heavy but focused and well-paced. Third track "Untouched Dew," serves as the exact opposite. An eight minute opus that stops then starts then stops then starts again, it's sonically ambitious, orchestrally gorgeous and symphonically delightful. Three-minutes of vocals gives way to a powerful ending that pretty much cements this band's status as something worth remembering.
Few highs are ever followed in succession and that's the case here. Fourth track "Neverbegoodwood" is a tame, sparse offering, in which the vocals aren't very audible and seem to suffer from poor production. It's a delicate song that seems a bit out of place here. The saxophone and woodwinds are a nice touch but they all seem askew. One can see the logic in trying to slow down the tempo, but when it dawdles like this, the results are quite muddled and this song's placement is a bit head-scratching. "Cauldron" follows and its another long-winded, exhausting quasi-instrumental. Whereas the first four minutes features a good dozen or so verses, the last four is a swirl of guitars and piano, and it's certainly commendable but sure does get weary towards the end. The album concludes with "Hypnogogue" a 10-minute offering (really, another 10 minute song?) that actually sounds like three songs in one.
For all the laborious work involved in listening, The Flax of Reverie has a sea of high points. Instrumental music is an easily-revered genre and more often than not is anything but a letdown. But listening to this disc puts instrumental music on a whole different level. Sure it can get long-winded and tedious, but it's still something pretty special. With a concept this ambitious, this energetic and with a band this poised, a new barometer has been set. That this is just a debut disc is even more special. It's long been said the best music comes from Britain. A few listens to this disc and there's little reason to argue.
Recommended If You Like: Talk Talk, Brian Eno, post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd, Alice in Wonderland.