Here's a somewhat odd yet ultimately compelling release from the folks over at Moon June Records. Moraine are a five piece instrumental ensemble from Seattle consisting of Dennis Rea on guitars, Ruth Davidson on cello, Alicia Allen on violin, Kevin Millard on bass, and Jay Jaskot on drums, and their new release Manifest Density is like a head on collision between the Mahavishu Orchestra, Univers Zero, King Crimson, Present, and Dr. Nerve...sort of. Mixing chamber rock, prog, jazz, rock, East Asian influences, and avant-garde styles, Moraine is hard to classify yet impossible to ignore. This is certainly dark, foreboding music, and not for the faint of heart, so if you are looking for catchy, memorable melodies and familiar song structures, better look elsewhere. Should however you feel in the mood for something completely adventurous and off the beaten path, then you've come to the right place.
Opening cuts "Save the Yuppie Breeding Grounds" and "Ephebus Amoebus" kick off this CD with an almost 'free-jazz' sense of abandon, jagged guitar shards from Rea combating soaring cello and violin, but with plenty of dissonant passages and swelling atmosphere to pull it all into the chamber rock camp. It's not until "Nacho Sunset" that you hear any sort of calming melodies, this one a pseudo 'gypsy-jam', complete with intoxicating cello/violin lines and tricky rhythms. After the dark & ominous "$9 Pay-Per-View Lifetime TV Movie" (a must hear for fans of Univers Zero and Present), comes the complex title track, straight out of the Mahavishu or Dixie Dregs playbook, featuring weaving guitar and violin passages driven by rock firepower from Jaskot's aggressive drum attack. The chilling "Uncle Tang's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (nice to see these guys are up on their classic 1920's silent horror movies) follows, this one a nightmarish piece with dissonant strings and guitars flying about the mix, while "Disillusioned Avatar" is one of the more majestic, proggy numbers on the CD, and one that will really appeal to fans of The Dixie Dregs. Intense and complex heavy prog-fusion is what "Kuru" is all about, with blazing guitar, violin, and cello soaring over some bulbous bass riffs and crashing drums, and "Revenge Grandmother" is a fantastic vehicle for violin and cello, again, with a strong gypsy feel. "Staggerin' " has a more laid back, late 60's jazz-rock fusion feel, with a slight touch of the blues, highlighted by Rea's nimble runs and some wicked violin bursts, somewhat like a cross between Terje Rypdal, Larry Coryell's Seventh House, early Gentle Giant, and Univers Zero. Creepy, yet highly effective. This fascinating release comes to its climax with "Middlebräu", a mish-mosh of hard rock, folk, jazz, and blues (The Flock anyone?) that basically sums up all that this band is about.
In the end, Manifest Density is at times an exhausting ride, nearly an hour of a myriad of styles, textures, tones, and moods. For some listeners, all of this might be a tad too much, but for those who are feeling brave and in the mood for some experimental sounds, this will be a ride worth taking over and over again.
1. Save The Yuppie Breedeing Grounds 4:12
2. Ephebus Amoebus 4:55
3. Nacho Sunset 4:29
4. $9 Pay-Per-View Lifetime TV Movie 5:51
5. Manifest Density 3:55
6. Uncle Tang's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 4:01
7. Disillusioned Avatar 5:15
8. Kuru 5:02
9. Revenge Grandmother 5:11
10. Staggerin' 4:41
11. Middlebräu 6:46