Review Summary: A majestic cinematic experience...
Mothlite is essentially the project of only two musicians: Daniel O’Sullivan, member of the English experimental group Guapo who’s every now and then joining Sunn O))) during live performances and the Finnish sound engineer and producer Antti Uusimak. The both have an enormous knowledge about music and sound, at least you could assume that from listening to this album. Interestingly their debut “The Flax of Reverie” was recorded around the same time as Guapo’s newest album “Elixirs” and does actually convey similar territory, though in a much more cautious and lighter form. But in this case lighter doesn’t mean it’s easier accessible, it just contains more filigree and probably even more sophisticated material - dark and brooding it is nevertheless.
To achieve their rich, cinematic and multi-textured sound the duo worked together with a number of guest musicians, bringing in an ensemble of instruments that could almost justify the label “Chamber Music” the band has been referred to as. But though their use of all those typical instruments like violin, clarinet, bassoon, flute and an only rarely used guitar, the music itself doesn’t have much to do with Chamber Music. Describing it by mentioning one single genre is an impossible act anyway. The one they have the most in common with must be Post Rock, still Mothlite are far from your usual Post Rock band. They indeed do have long, slow build ups, rushing climaxes and songs building on repetition and atmosphere rather than changes and constant variation and the album is made up of only six songs, with three of them lasting longer than ten minutes. However, they also have a freshness to them that puts them above most stuff that comes from the Post Rock corner nowadays - they are actually closer to Talk Talk than to any other Post Rock band I can think of. Apart from Post Rock influences there are also moments that could be labeled as Drone, classically influenced compositions and even space for jazzy improvisations.
In addition to the broad colourful instrumentation, and the use of many electronic distortions and effects, the vocals are also used as just another instrument rather than a way of transporting lyrics. The opener River
for examples uses only one line repeated over and over again in different ways - and it works. In fact pretty much everything works on this record, the broody chords played on a wide array of keyboard instruments, the dark and shadowy parts alternating with majestic and gleaming moments. The drumming is very fitting either, mostly slow and low-key, but at times also using polyrhythmics or other tricks. One of the album’s highlights is the glorious climax of The Untouched Dew
, combining majestic arcs of melody and an arhythmical percussion chaos. And I do adore the band’s usage of the various instruments and the way they manage to interchange between them after just a few notes so seamlessly you don’t even realise it at first. Actually it might be the transitions in general that are the biggest achievement of Mothlite, the way their songs constantly evolve without breaking or twisting.
The music is of a very
experimental kind and people who like using the word “boring” in the context of slowly moving and evolving music probably shouldn’t touch this. The songs are all of a similar nature, yet they are all unique and pointing out individual tracks doesn’t seem appropriate to me. But next to their experimental side, the music is also lively and breathing, and Mothlite do actually have their moments of easy accessibility, and when they occur they are of a strikingly catchy nature - it is hard to imagine someone not humming along lines like “And never be good wooo-ooooood”
after listening to the album. Still in the first place I can recommend this mostly to people who like experimental, avant-gardistc music as well as Post Rock and ambient soundscapes. But those I can guarantee that they will be satisfied.