I’m well aware that the DRC have issues with progressive rock, but musical allergic rashes aside I feel that this album offers a fresh take on the so-called genre. It would however also be wrong to merely categorise Moulettes as even folk-rock, let along progressive rock, since there is much more depth to this album. The sounds are complex, and yes although there is a theme running through of a celebration of the mysterious creatures that inhabit our earth (some mythical?) it is not, I promise you, a prog rock record. This is not Yes’ ‘Tales from Topographic Oceans’, although I am sure that there’s some influence in there somewhere (….). It is not Jethro Tull either, but again, there is probably some influence there too. The opening track ‘Behemoth’ is an aural cavalcade. Although not on horseback, the sound may be riding through the sea astride the mythical Behemoth itself. Gasping delightful vocal harmonies are interspersed with a riff that sounds like an electric guitar, but I believe is actually a cello (played by the talented Hannah Miller). As an opener it leaves no room for doubt, this is a rock record and it packs punch from start to finish. But as I say, not just rock though…
World music and the far-east simmer underneath under ‘Patterns’ and I hear Kate Bush in ‘Medusa’, breakbeats on ‘Parasite’ interspersed with power riffs that could be out of any folk-rock crossover of the 1970s, but given new life here on fully mature arrangements covering new ground for a modern audience of any persuasion. It’s that broader appeal that the Moulettes have managed to achieve on this album, perhaps more so than their other outings (this is their 4th studio album), without sacrificing their soon and deep folk/psychedleic/progressive rock roots.
Their craft and musicianship is undoubted here. Many have made reference to their live performances, but I have issue with bands that rely solely on the adage ‘they sound much better live’. Performance has stand on its own two feet and maybe draw you to the live experience. The production and sound on Preternatural is outstanding, and stands alone without the need to rely on a live rendition – although I am sure they the live shows are very much something to behold. Given this though there is what I interpret to be a lament to the loss of talented singers (on ‘Bird of Paradise Pt 2’) – is this about the loss of craft through the X-factor generation (?) and the loss of wildlife through climate change (?). There’s plenty of depth lyrically to this album, within each of the songs, and credits would suggest some deep political motivations behind them.
The final track on the album (‘Silk’) is one of the standout tracks. Opening with ethereal vocals with drop liquid-like beats, and later samples of sci-fi films, and on the topic of the material itself. Being a scientist who works on natural fibres I can’t help but love the subject matter itself, but what I like most is the ending (on the vinyl version), with the run out groove endlessly repeating…..daring, and a nice touch.
So, if you don’t like prog (I do) don’t be put off. This album has more to give, and influences well beyond easy pigeonholing. Oh, and one day, I will see them live too….
Rob listened: This seemed to be our designated talker-overer for the evening (there’s always one) but even so, there was plenty to dig into in this sprawling, careening affair. For a start, we struggled to decide what it was. That’s helpful for Moulettes, I guess. As Steve has noted, we struggle sometimes to divest ourselves of certain genre prejudices. This thing was like quicksilver, flowing through the gaps between styles. And whilst I’m allergic to the more knowing, self-indulgent end of prog, I can’t deny an affection for a certain type of pastoral psyche-tinged folk, and ‘Preternatural’ seemed to sail more on that bearing. Still, there were sounds chucked in there that hit like nails down an eighties synthesized blackboard. I can’t claim to have fallen completely for Moulettes, but ‘Preternatural’ certainly made me want to listen more, rather than less.
Steve’s further comment: Stop talking over my records…..
Tom listened: I almost really liked this….but a couple of things put me off. I liked the singer’s voice and most of the instrumentation but, as Rob has said in his response, every so often Moulettes would throw in a jarring prog rock trope (is there any other kind?) and my teeth would be set on edge, a cold sweat would break out and a little piece of me would die…mainly because it all felt so unnecessary; a perfectly good tune (Silk being a case in point) spoilt, as far as I was concerned, by the band seemingly feeling the need get the prog rock box ticked on their Allmusic profile. A shame as victory was so nearly theirs!
Oh, and then there’s the album cover!