There’s something quite pretty about the image of A Broke Moon Rises, reflected by the cover art’s luscious classical frame of an expressionist painting of a curling hand, a sensation of ongoing effort whose immensity is simply that of living. The hand disappears into the background, in the same way that we see half a moon, broken (the title refers to how David Pajo’s son alluded to a half moon), and yet it is essentially complete. There are four acoustic guitars but only one player, his many aspects an ebb and flow of dissolution into tranquil pieces of various natures: from the late 90s post-rock ascension of “The Upright Path” to the lighthearted minimalist collage of “A Lighthouse Reverie” and the deeply spiritual “Spiegel im Spiegel”, itself a reminder of the self’s infinite fragmentation, a whisper towards the divine.
The intensity of the hand’s expression is a good measure of these pieces’ pathos, which nevertheless becomes traditionally framed, a restraint that serves as a focus for the quietness with which emotional intensity is usually lived. “Walt’s”, for instance, not only musically plays with the waltz form, but adds country glissandos that make the melancholic undertones shift beautifully into serenity, like visiting an old, old friend’s house, as full of history as it is of life. In “Shimmer”, the same strumming sequence leads to very different moods depending on very subtle changes in tone as well as the processed elements that swirl around it, which grant it a brightness that nevertheless breaks down by the end, emphasizing the shimmer’s ephemerality.
Papa M’s rendition of Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel”, the last track, is perhaps the album’s culmination, all of it a post-rock narrative that parts from a low point in an upright path and steadily makes its way towards the heavens. The decomposition of the “Shimmer” could be none other than the powerful dissolution of expectations when reaching the mountaintop, the senses overwhelmed, intuition kicking in to pacify the heartbeat. As the mind is subjected to rest by sublimity, it starts to fold over itself, losing the particularities of experience and becoming attuned to a wider perception of itself and that which surrounds it: a mirror in the mirror. The composition is no stranger to off-kilter interpretations (there’s one with saxophone), but the ‘tintinnabular’ core always rests upon the piano. Replaced by the harmonic pull of the guitar, the bells of a powerful mystical silence are absent, and thus it all returns to a different kind of quietude, one grounded in the everyday, in a physical, personal effort that’s much easier to trace in the vibration of strings than in the perfect tones of a piano traditionally played. It is a meditation that, once upon the mountaintop, casts its eyes down instead of upward, and in the infinitely fragmented, broken, dissolving world of matter finds its wonder. (David Murrieta Flores)