Thursday, April 30, 2015

CD Review: Fallen "Secrets of the Moon" (Psychonavigation)

[€10.99 //]

"Secrets of the Moon" begins with static and a sharp sound cutting through it, which could be a wolf if you are out in the fog of the woods or simply a boat horn if you are at sea.   This becomes electronic loops with bells which are something out of a serious sci-fi movie or perhaps one my favorite go-to comparisons: The X-Files.    That certain secada sound is in the background as the electronic loops slow down a little and waves come crashing through in an almost haunted way.   Is one of the secrets of the moon perhaps that there were more people than we knew sent there and some of them have died, their lost souls trapped there?

A horn comes in next and it reminds me of an almost snake charmer sound, but yet it's not something I can quite place in terms of saying flute or saxophone but it does indeed sound like a woodwind instrument.    And just like that, everything just disappears except for the static fog.    Some key tones come out, but this is once again just sounding haunted.   It's like a movie about ghosts but in a sci-fi way and not a horror way.  I'm thinking "Fire In the Sky", for those who have seen that.

The dark synth pushes through like a Nine Inch Nails song and then sounds come through like whispers but I'm fairly sure they are not actually vocals and just give off that appearance.   Keys are on a loop as waves of sand crash in the background, like turning an hour glass up and down.    That woodwind sound returns and I wonder how people play music in space, with an instrument such as this.    Is it a clarinet?   This is just such an interesting mixture of sounds, going somewhere between electronic and what could only be dubbed as "world" music, but it just works so well together.  

Distorted guitar notes somehow end out the track and for a ten minute masterpiece that single song was worth the asking price as it accomplished more than some others can in an entire album of twelve songs that go for an hour or so.    Still we have five more songs and the second is called "Golden Dust (The Vanishing)" so based on the "vanishing" part you know it's going to be just as eerie.    It opens with piano loops and the sound of static in the background, such as the trapped souls.

As the pace picks up, drum beats come in as well and this has turned into something like the "Halloween" theme, which to this day still sends shivers down my spine.   Cymbal crashes and rides come out and this just has gone into full on alien/sci-fi mode with the hollow glass tones.   I'm not sure if this has the qualities of a 1970's horror movie in full yet, but it is definitely making the soundtrack to a most excellent and serious sci-fi movie.

Sounds that could be out of the fax modem genre come ringing through as all this is happening as well and then we suddenly just converge into this western style guitar riff.   This changes the pace into the synth notes of something out of the 1980's and maybe even that sort of rhythm from an artist who is currently riding an electronic wave.    Strings come through in waves and we've stumbled upon some sort of Beverly Hills Cop orchestra.   A couple of harsh synth notes strike down like lightning to end the track.

The third song, "Ravenhand", opens with the complexities of acoustic guitar notes that you might recall from The Child of A Creek.   As they loop around, deep notes play in the background, almost as if dropping little bombs.     Another instrument joins the progression and I want to say it is a trumpet but do not quote me on that.   I'm familiar with most of the basic high school band type of instruments, but artist these days just use them in ways that my high school music teacher might not even be able to identify them.  

And now I'm not sure about my trumpet theory, as we drift into another sort of snake charmer meets Prince Ali Baba type of vibe.    This all takes a shift into dark strings and the sounds of waves crashing so now I definitely do feel as if we are a large ship lost at sea.   Sad strings come into the background and we are mourning the loss as the ship is probably going down.     No time to feel too sad though, as the acoustic guitar pattern from the beginning comes right back and reminds us there is work to be done.

"Ravenhand" ends with an overall sound of destruction, of despair as there are dark notes and everything just seems to be taking a turn for the worse in this mood.   Luckily, the next song seems to be picking up the rhythm a little bit and isn't as sad right off.   It's got these ringing tones in the background of it with waves and beach beats at the helm.    An ambient glow comes out next and this is somewhere between any number of things I can refer to as simply being "ambient" and Aloha.

That X-Files sound returns in the tones, and yet the haunted waves continue to crash through the background.    As we near the end of the track, everything begins to crash together and then the synth strings come through to add a level of sadness once again, only this time I feel like the music also is expressing some form of regret, which is weird because I've never heard regret come out in (instrumental) music before now.

The fifth song is called "Cosmos" and that is a show my wife wants to watch.    The tones coming through in patterns here almost remind me of a carnival ride, the carousel perhaps, but they also have an 8bit sound to them so I do want to take them all the way back to the classic NES game "Carnival", which I just loved so much.   (And, yes, there are websites I have found where you can play it for free)   Steel drum banging accompanies this now and for some reason I feel like we're in the jungle with John Rambo.

Synth strings come through in small waves during the drumming, which can also sound a bit like bucket drumming to me, and as the carnival sound has faded I'm not sure where exactly this puts us.   Keys come in next and they have a distinct feel to them, almost 8bit in some ways, but I can't quite put my finger on them.   This still though, as seems to be the theme of the album, maintains its alien feel.

A distorted static sound seems to fill the speakers next, taking over the track as only some of those bass strings are left in the background.   Piano key type of electronic notes come through in slow progressions and I find the whole thing to be rather uplifting.   We then return to the tone loops from earlier in the track, which seems only fitting somehow.   It maintains that cross between The X-Files and something alien.    It takes us through the static one more time and then fades out on the tone loops.

The last song is called "At the End Of The World" and it only seems fitting to go out that way.    It begins with the quieter drone of ambience.    It's peaceful, calm, and then the drum beats come in once again, not quite the same as before but still they have a certain rhythm to them.    It is refreshing to feel this ambient/drone sound mixed with the beats as the two somewhat opposite styles do not seem to clash.    The sound coming through now could be a saxophone but it could also simply go back to that earlier instrument I couldn't place but thought was possibly a clarinet.

I am pretty sure that I do hear some flute in here as well and as this remains peaceful, even with the "Lion King" type of drumming, I feel like it just projects an overall feeling of happiness.   Not the doom and gloom I would expect from the end of the world, but rather more of an acceptance of one's fate I suppose.    Electric guitar notes slide in with distortion as do the sound of something like a water stick that reminds me of Kung Fu Panda.   If nothing else, this sound should remind you of your happy place, whatever that might be.

So for all of the rides that "Secrets of the Moon" takes you on- from scaring you without being scary, making you a believer and leaving you on a high note- this doesn't digest like an album in the traditional sense of it being a collection of six songs but rather each song tends to feel like an album within itself.    That is to say if you were to think of this as a soundtrack, which I like to do, then this wouldn't simply accompany one film but rather a series of six.

The fact that there is just so much happening within these epics of songs just goes to show you that you need to listen to them that many more times to truly understand and appreciate them.    While I primarily review cassettes (no secret there), Fallen has provided one of the best releases I have heard of 2015 thus far- and in quite some time- and it's not even on cassette so that's really saying a lot.

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