Kwinch Music/TSM [Release date:04.13]
Moon Bird is a great name for a band that revels in layered sounds, sweeping melodies and David Gilmour style progressions. ‘Signs Of Illusion’ is probably too derivative to break new ground, but given its weighty pretensions, thematic lyrics, memorable melodies and soaring guitar, there’s plenty for Prog fans to enjoy.
For such a big sounding album, it’s surprising to discover that Moon Bird is just two multi instrumentalists – the Phoenix based Daryl Lynch and the New York based Jim Kwiecinski – who have intermittently spent the last 17 years developing their sound.
The band’s stop-start career was partly due to geographical constraints, before the duo’s creative spark was reignited by computers. Some of the epic sounds could have come from the Pink Floyd ‘Animals’ album, but the interwoven vocal and keyboard driven wall of sound is something all of their own
‘Over and Over’ was the apparently the album’s starting point and the song is cleverly placed at the three quarter mark of the album complete with its melodic reprise. Jim’s delicate vocal, with a tinkling acoustic, synth and a rich hook is evocative of mid-career Floyd.
The music and lyrics combine perfectly over some slowly evolving chords before an archetypal Dave Gilmour style guitar break. And yet the slowly bubbling textured sounds and uplifting melody manage to snatch the piece from the jaws of Floyd to make it a signature Moon Bird composition.
The duo is at its best when they explore the warm harmonies of ‘Over and Over’ and the Crosby Still and Nash feel of ‘Perfect Science’ which tops and tails the album perfectly. ‘Over and Over’ and its reprise would ordinarily have been perfect outro for any album full of rich dynamics and a gentle flow, but the band tag on an acoustic coda of the opening track.
‘Out of Time’ is another good example Moon Bird playing to their strengths, with potent chords, double harmony vocals, and an insistent percussive pulse. The duo’s compositional substance underpins the enveloping soundscape with only a clichéd radio voice collage detracting from a fully realised musical vision.
There’s a further Floydian reference on the funky wah-wah inflected rhythm guitar and echo reverb bathed ‘People’, which moves from a bubbling synth break and disco beat into a crunching guitar line. It’s an impressive slow building progressive groove that draws you in but ultimately finishes far too quickly.
‘Signs Of Illusion’ feels like a musical jigsaw puzzle with linked slabs of music. ‘What’s Going On’ for example, has a beautifully constructed funky undertow that propels the vocal sweep and sculpted guitar solo into the stratosphere. ‘Signs of Illusion’ has enough inspired moments for prog fans to share the duo’s lofty ambitions. ****(4/5)
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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