Moody Alien (also known as Mal.O, also known as Al) has spent a number of years recording these tracks, but this is his first official release. Is he moody? Yes. Is he an alien? Possibly. Is his real name Al? No idea.
The moodiness is apparent in the frequent shifts of tone and timbre, from the dark and dungeonlike to the bright and upbeat. At times the music bleeds hints of Kid Koala (the harmonica and spoken word cut-ups of “in the dark” ~ What was it all about? And I said, “I don’t know.”). At times it drips the grime of industrial (the crunching percussion and guitar grinds of “Oh1′”). But other tracks are meditative (“3791”), cartoon-like (“new deal”), tap-like (“Oh2′”) or experimental (“F-lander”). This haphazardness is likely a product of the long gestation; sequencing must have been a bear.
The lack of a signature sound usually works against a performer, but in this case it helps. When the sounds begin to flow backwards in “Oh1′” and “dead man telling tales”, the listener can sense a bit of internal consistency. The same is true of the impeccably mastered stereo percussion, the constant that keeps the recording grounded. In fact, percussion seems to be Moody Alien’s strong suit, as many of the other instruments are used in percussive capacities, with short repeated melodic phrases serving as a substitute for verse-long melodies. To line up so many sounds in such a way requires great attention to detail; their construction is like sonic Jenga. Fortunately, the artist is up to the task, as none of his buildings fall down. Considering the spaciousness of the tracks, there’s certainly room to add another block: an occasional overarching piano or violin theme could enhance the stature of these tracks without taking anything away. While this is a suggestion for future efforts, it’s no knock on the current project. A Moody Alien in the Dark is a fine debut and a welcome introduction to a hard-working artist. (Richard Allen)