Moon Ate the Dark II is an exquisite release whose internal beauty can remain hidden for only so long. The colorful hues of Kassandra Jensen are a perfect match for the intricate musical shades of Anna Rose Carter and Christopher Bailey. The cover’s blood moon lettering gives way to gorgeous visual arcs, in the same manner as the rising moon casts even primary colors into nuance.
Three years have passed since the last album, and the duo seems to have grown more fluid and instinctive in the interim. The album’s flow is smooth throughout, carrying the listener from the playful and bright to the meditative and shaded. The overall impression is one of slow-growing understanding, an inner peace reached through the experience of multiple emotions.
For two minutes and fifty-six seconds, Moon Ate the Dark II sounds like a sweet piano album, lovely in its own right. But at that juncture, the album takes a sudden shift, akin to that of hearing an animal in the forest while enjoying what one thought was a pleasant walk. This pleasant electronic intrusion is the first indication that Moon Ate the Dark is up to something more than melody. First there’s a train-like drone, then a repeated, bell-flecked passage from the side speaker. Be on your guard. And then for a few moments, all fear is gone. The opening passage of “If Vanishing” implies childlike wonder, balanced by a more subdued section, akin to the reminder of a parent’s hand. Yes, you may wander, but not too far. Perhaps the parent is simply remembering what it is like to be a child before letting go. Perhaps the parent is only imagining a child.
A similar switch occurs on preview track “Ventricles,” in which the ivories seem to have been treated in double fashion: prepared piano matched by electronic tweaks. The heart is skipping beats, the blood wobbling in the veins. Drone and modern composition battle for prominence like memory and hope. If the drone is the haze of remembering, the thoughtful piano is a reminder of Beckett’s words: you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on. And after this, the determination of driving ivories on the swift and motivated “Verse Porous Verse.” A shift has occurred, a quiet revelation. Now when the violin takes control on “Sleepy Vipers”, it’s as a course has been plotted, a ship has set sail, a goal has been set, a life has discovered its purpose. It’s not exactly dark, more like a beacon, as befits the name of the project.
Moon Ate the Dark II claims no narrative arc, but establishes one nonetheless: from the daylight to the dark to the illuminated night. The duo has become who it set out to be. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 3 July