MOAT is a fascinating collaboration between Marty Willson-Piper, founding and former member of iconic Australian band The Church and member of goth band All About Eve, and composer and multi-instrumentalist Niko Röhlcke (Weeping Willows). The former comes from an English/Australian jangling guitar pop background, the latter a composer and Swedish indie band member, and they meet somewhere in the middle ground to create a wonderful fusion of antipodean sunshine and scandinavian winter.
‘Poison Stream’, the new album out now through Schoolkids Records, is a glorious collection of hybrid indie/folk vignettes that shimmer and shine with gorgeous instrumentation and deep reflective vocals.
This is a lovely album from beginning to the end – it takes you on a fascinating journey through a folk-infused haze moving from pure indie pop to psychedelia, blues and cabaret, with the golden thread of Willson-Piper’s sonorous vocals – deep and profound.
As a taster, last week the glorious single ‘Helpless You’ was reviewed by me and I wrote that there is a bluesy, folksy spine to the song with a crystalline shimmer that sparkles and shines. Instrumentation is layered and nuanced – strings pluck and swoon, while the guitars, as would be expected, jangle with a pristine clarity. Willson-Piper’s voice has a tender toughness about it – distinct and recognisable (he took the helm in The Church for a few songs), it is cool and laid back.
The song is infused with a romantic melancholy and yearning with its celestial choruses and harmonies and has a gorgeously rich video accompanying it.
Elsewhere, the album follows a similar thread with its melodic strengths and Röhlcke’s lush instrumentation and production, while providing a rich and seamless diversity throughout.
Opening track ‘Acid Rain’ is classic sparkling jangling indie pop that could fit in any of The Church back catalogue: strong melodies, sweeping strings and a hint of melancholia.
But very much in the spirit of diversity, ‘Gone By Noon’ has a Serge Gainsbourg/Burt Bacharach tone with Willson-Piper’s voice deep and rich filled with vibrato and feeling. It’s like driving an Italian sports car on the coastal road to Monaco with the wind in your hair and the bleached-white bright sunshine shielded by your Persol sunglasses.
‘The Ballad of Sweet Marie’ continues with this sixties-infused European Gainsbourg mood with gorgeous harmonies from Olivia Willson-Piper and the Gallic sounds of an accordian. There is a cabaret echo and theatricality to this track: it’s refreshing with its slightly haunting story-telling atmosphere.
Willson-Piper’s voice is again out front on ‘The Road Map To My Soul’ which switches pace to a soul-soaked laid back reflective track with stalking horns and instrumental splashes. A guitar solo is cool and laid back.
‘Judgement Day’ is psychedelic and dark – bombastic and dramatic with haunting violins and a air of menace and violence. The tone shifts dramatically though – swirling interludes bursting through like a ray of bright sunshine.
The air of reflective melancholia gently nudges its way forward again in ‘Black and White’, while ‘The Folly’ has celestial strings that make the song float on clouds. There is no percussion or bass – just the shimmering layers of strings and guitars and Willson-Piper’s rich tones.
‘Lover’ keeps the foot gently on the brakes with its interplay between horns and strings – again with an immaculate Burt Bacharach style and poise.
Crystalline guitars – Willson-Piper’s trademark twelve string jangle – form the spine to the final track, ‘Tears Will Come’ with its knocking percussion and veils of strings, gorgeous melodies and jaunty whistling.
This is an entirely complete and satisfying album, painted on a canvas with many rich colours and framed with heavenly melodies and mountain high choruses. It is at times reflective and melancholy, at others theatrical and poised: baroque and stately indie/folk pop. You can discern the perfect marriage between Willson-Piper’s paisley/folk/goth soaked background and the instrumental genius and production skills of Röhlcke
The album is available here through Schoolkids Records or you can stream through the link below:
Feature Photograph: Olivia Willson-Piper