A fusion of sounds exploring the atmospheric and melancholic nature of longing
Evoletah, an Australian alternative pop rock ensemble consisting of members Matt Cahill, Andrew Boyce, Katie Underwood, Jason Eyers-White, and Michael Shanahan, have developed an accessible yet musically rich sound that is so infrequently found in the realm of relatively radio friendly, pop sounding music. From the introductory and haunting opening track "Halfway," I knew immediately that there would something special about their most recent release entitled We Ache for the Moon. Upon further inspection, I determined that this track would no doubt find itself comparable to the artwork that comes paired with the album. A rainy, stormy, cold, urban, and melancholic piece of work with an emphasis on a desire for something more "out there." Previous releases such as Fool's Errand in 2008, then follow up releases Evaporating and Sleepwalker have all found themselves much critical acclaim, and from what I can gather, they are on track to be very successful with their continued good works. On We Ache for the Moon, Evoletah is joined by female vocalist Katie Underwood who provides a very mature, contemporary, and some jazz influence to this record setting it aside in terms of atmosphere from their previous works. To quote Evotelah's press release, "Steeped in a slow simmer of British folk, avant-jazz and indie, We Ache For The Moon is fine dining for the imagination. The dual vocals of Katie Underwood and songwriter Matt Cahill establish a fine line balance. Cool, but still yearning. Epic, but always graceful. We Ache For The Moon takes Evoletah and their fans to another planet." Indeed, it is not my intention to sound so biased or one sided with regards to this music, and in time with my review I will highlight some momentary flaws; but upon multiple listens I have found very little to complain about. The overall style is unique while calling on a variety of artists in multiple genres.
On the whole, the production of Evoletah's latest batch of recordings is very nice. It has a very smooth, almost jazz club esque, production quality. Indeed, the best listening experience came paired with my studio headphones as I was really able to take in the atmospheric mixing and the subtle dynamic switches that we find on all of the instruments. In this regard, there is little to complain about. The only thing I would highlight is occasional moments where the vocals feel a little bit too dry, and several occasions on the second track "Time" where I heard some distorted clipping, which is unusual to be found on a well produced album like this. However, I doubt this will be overly noticeable to many people. It is worth noting though as I consider this album to be great so far, but it is not quite perfect. Stepping aside though to examine the actual musical compositions, and my sensations are slightly different: the compositions are essentially perfect. Very unique and my mind keeps returning to the word "haunting" as I listen to this album. At moments it is downright depressing for something acclaimed as pop friendly. "The Eleventh Hour" is a highlight in terms of compositional quality. The tracks are fundamentally catchy and accessible, but at times like with this track, I felt I was listening to a neo-folk album reminiscient of November's Doom or Nature & Organisation. It is simply beautiful to my ears, but difficult to say how others will interpret it.
Easily the most enticing aspect of this album is the multitude of sounds that are found across the album. At moments it sounds very much like an average jazz pop album, with an emphasis on drum, bass, and piano as an additional rhythm source. However, most of the album is much more complex then these moments that become recollections to an older time in music history, as we move forward towards an overall sound that heavily reminds me of Sleeping at Last, Deas Veil, and even some Postal Service. It is, no doubt, this indie rock crowd that this music will likely find most of it's appeal. The musical diversity kept me entertained for the duration of this album. The double bass sounds fantastic, and really adds an amazingly atmospheric low end that is much needed for this style. Occasional fluttering string instruments and the sometimes rhythmic and sometimes lead guitar riffs provide a grounding in the rock genre. Of course, with this being a "pop" album, the vocals are important. Fortunately, they excel at every moment. Evotelah's lead singer Matt Cahill has a fantastic and subdued style of singing that pairs up well with the jazz stylings of Ms. Underwood. At moments they sing solo, and at others like on the track "Black & Blue" they sing a duet. They keep the album diverse with their ever changing vocal styles and arrangements.
It is difficult to find any huge faults with Evoletah's 2013 release. It is such a unique and mature album to my ears that draws on such an array of influences. It is accessible to a large audience, but maintains a very somber, melancholic, and even depressive atmosphere that appeals greatly to myself as a reviewer considering my own musical history being engrained in the black metal and neo-folk genres. A track like "Everyone waits for nothing" invokes some sort of emptiness, some sort of sadness, that one does not so often see in pop music. But, it is ever presence in blues, some jazz, and these often overlooked "indie" styles of music like I previously mentioned. At the end of the day, each track on this album pulses and pressures my ears to listen some more. The final track entitled "Thirteen Moons" is drenched in atmospheric emotion and commands attention as it exits in a slight crescendo leading to the ever looming emptiness as it descends in volume to simple static synth tones.
We Ache for the Moon is more than a solid record. It is excellent. Accessible yet musically diverse. Interesting and melancholic, but not so depressing that you will want to kill yourself. It's tone pairs well with the color and atmosphere invoked by the record cover. As such, if you come in expecting an unsettling coldness paired with the safety net an umbrella can provide during the rain, the subtle warmth from the jazz double bass, sweeping drums, piano, and saxaphone will keep you enticed. In the least, I know this: I will be listening to this album for a long while to come. I'm glad to have found it.
Recommended tracks: "Guillotine," "The eleventh hour," and "Everyone waits for nothing."