I only came across Moths and Locusts earlier this year when I heard the band’s first album from 2013, ‘Mission Collapse in the Twin Sun Megaverse’, quite by chance after pushing on a conversation between two friends on social media. Initially thinking from the title that it would be some sort of straight space rock journey I was amazed to hear a heavy and nuanced album that was anything but run of the mill. ‘Mission Collapse…’ has been on regular rotation digitally for me for sometime now, and I can’t wait to finally get the wax when it arrives from the band’s home in Nanaimo, Canada (British Columbia to be more exact). Note that there are still copies of this available here.
Yes Moths and Locusts are yet another Canadian band who are starting to cause ripples outside of their own country (see my recent Canadian playlist for a few more), and long may that continue. Indeed since the last album they have organised their own ‘Psych Fest’ on Vancouver Island and shared a stage with Acid Mothers Temple, Mudhoney, La Chinga, We Hunt Buffalo, the Pack A.D., Black Wizard and Operators; as well as twice acting as part of Can legend Damo Suzuki’s ‘Sound Carriers,’ resulting in the ‘Seven Potatoes: Live in Nanaimo’ double LP (NoiseAgonyMayhem Records).
The new album comes partly as a result of these experiences, as well as the sad death of guitarist Mike Breen’s father just two days before recording began. Playing in a way that Breen describes as being “numb and not really fully absorbing the situation” led to him playing a visceral combination of “sadness, confusion and anger”. The result is indeed a very powerful set of songs which while exciting me has also left me finding it difficult to describe the album as a whole, such is the variety on show here.
First track ‘Our Dear Leader’ is a massive opener, combining melody and power to create something that is both heavy and anthemic. It is a real rock song, but with depth to it. Like the rest of the album there is a really good mixture of the hard and the soft, with a driving bass riff from Dave Read that is the key to the song for me. It’s the sort of song you wish that a band like the Foo Fighters would bring out, because if you listen closely you see just how much is going on behind that wall of sound.
Things get a bit more avant grade with ‘Beach Party Shakedown’ which, like ‘Our Dear Leader’ can stand as a great rock song on one level but with so much more with its reverse-speaking loops, sudden genre shifts and post-punk attitude. In the just over five minute of listening to this track you begin to get this Moths and Locusts album. Yes they rock out, but the unexpected and the experimental is never far away. Be clear this is not experimental music per se, but is is the sound of a band bending and stretching what they are playing, and moulding into something that is superbly well-crafted and satisfying.
Having given us a raunchy start Moths and Locusts then take us on a broader sonic exploration. ‘Troubled’ is a haunting track which seems to take us on an intense inner journey. There is a real darkness to this track with it sinister synths and loops. Again, and I’ll probably keep on repeating this, there is real depth to the track; you feel immersed in it because of the enveloping three-dimensional sound that the band produce. I also like the way that, for instance, some dub rises through the mix and then drops back again; effective but with a complete lack of ostentation. This is also the case on ‘Invisible Light’, which has a slower rhythm to it, with a fine vocal performance from drummer, Dave Bean, giving the track a folky element. If you took the vocal away though, you would have a different track altogether such is its transformative effect, the track otherwise being a post-rock influenced number which could have also stood on its own, great remix potential maybe?
In ‘Capsule’ the dub comes much more to the fore with great effect. An instrumental, it really provides a different dimension to the album. Conversely the track it perhaps the more ‘psych’ on the album with its reverb and fuzziness. For me it is track like this that are so rewarding. Reminding me of bands such as Dead Sea Apes and Dreamtime, here Moths and Locusts seem to all the time be looking for new ways around established patterns to create soundscapes that are at once familiar yet somehow other.
The exploration continues with ‘Aftershave and Nicotine’, a short track which perhaps suggests possible future directions for the band with its nod to more urban rhythms and beats. An altogether cleaner track, it acts as a good palate cleanser for the monumental ‘Biblical Prophecy’. Combining elements of space rock, shoegaze and psych this is a claustrophobic track that feels like its going to break out any minute, and yet remains contained; something that contributes to the build up of pressure and intensity. Then, finally, at about 7’30” it does finally burst out of its cocoon releasing all that pent-up tension as the band take the track home in a way that feels extremely cathartic as if the joy is only possible after the pain.
Finishing an album with a shorter track after a ten minute monster can be a sign that the former is somehow being hidden at the end. This is certainly not the case here with the title track. Beginning slowly its something that quickly builds and soars into a song that is stripped-back and elegiac, a song to bring you down after the eclectic ride of this highly accomplished album.
In ‘Helios Rising’ Moths and Locusts have produced an album that shares much of the eclectic endeavour of it’s predecessor, but seem to have found a greater depth and breadth to their sound. This is an album that deserves your full attention since it is crammed full of ideas and influences all of which are not so much put together as crafted into a set of songs that will continue to grow with every play. I am convinced that this will be an album that I will be listening to for years to come and that I have thus far only touched the surface of its sonic depth.
‘Helios Rising’ is released on July 7th 2016 as follows:
Released on Sunmask Records
300 copies on 180g clear/white vinyl
50 copies on 180g black vinyl
50 copies on 180g translucent blue vinyl (Moths & Locusts only)
50 deluxe copies on 180g black vinyl with silkscreened poster (Sunmask only)
Available through noiseagonymayhem records and Moths & Locusts
You can find my other writing for Backseat Mafia here.