REPUBLIC OF MUSIC May 27th 2016
The creaky, spooky opening tones, leading into Behemooth, remind me of the delightfully dippy gig I saw the Moulettes perform last year. They were clearly very proud of the silliness of the song, a description of an ocean monster, conjuring it into being by words. There’s a theme here; Underwaterpainter follows it, then Coral and Pufferfish Love. Because that’s what the Moulettes are like – art school / music school types, full of big ideas and the desire to bring them to the stage.
Preternatural succeeds the acclaimed Constellations album and builds on one area. Sometimes dubbed a folk-prog band, they stress the prog here and songs have a stop-start, constructed, shape, building frequently to mini climaxes and guitar figures. Played largely on traditional instruments – cello, guitar, etc, supplemented with burping synth, the result is unusual. Think something between Zappa and King Crimson, played in a folk club and you are part way there.
Between Hannah Miller and her cello and Ruth Skipper with her bassoon and autoharp, the set is full of swooping female vocals and mad ideas. Melodies straddle pop, synth-pop, and folk, while song structures highlight the similarities between folk and prog, sometimes didactic, sometimes sugary. Coral is the sweetest, most tuneful offering, with swooping harmonies, while Hidden World has a wordless chorus melody as haunting as Goldfrapp’s first (or most recent) album. Then again, Pufferfish Love is addictively honey-fied. It’s a simple idea, a declaration of love and longing, hooked on the image of a pufferfish marking out a mandala, as seen on a David Attenborough documentary.
This isn’t as gloriously sweeping as the starry Constellations album, dragged down a little by some didactic prog composition and takes a little while to win the ears. Once it does, its charms become clear and the remarkable and exotic beast that is the Moulettes, comes into view.
Preternatural is worth your time but if you are new to the band, maybe take a listen to Constellations first.