Million Moons ~ Gap in the Clouds

Gap in the Clouds is the rare debut that doesn’t sound like a debut, from a duo that doesn’t sound like a duo.  These U.K. post-rockers enter with confidence and verve, incorporating the strength of the genre while writing a suite about the onset of Alzheimer’s.  Their debut video, “Glimmer of Gold,” was first featured in our Spring Music Preview, and appears again below, Alex Do’s direction conveying the heartrending progress of the disease.  While the video portrays a father-son relationship, the album was conceived as the downturn of a woman’s mind into dementia, conveyed by titles such as “Midnight Madness” and “Eyes on the Hourglass.”

Leaving nothing to chance, the album begins with a set piece.  “Concrete Hands” establishes its melody through melancholic piano and guitar, then leaps to the action in a flurry of drums.  This initial jump is all the listener needs to begin embracing the band, which already sounds like a quartet. Echoes of EitS and MONO abound; they’ve done their homework well.  When the bombast abates, the duo proves itself capable of restraint, a careful construction lying in the composition.  In like fashion, the crashing metal surges of “Chaos in the Cobwebs” are set against reflective keys, and break down in the center, mirroring the battle within the mind.  In this intriguing passage, the volumes change, piano resting in the foreground while the drums lie content in the background.  The technique is revisited on “Glimmer of Gold” to powerful effect, albeit without piano, the drums jumping forward at exactly the one minute mark.

While the album remains melodic throughout, the dementia continues to intrude, moments of clarity offset by crashes of chaos, priceless peace shattered by eruptions of violence.  The disease takes its toll.  All too often, the person becomes someone different, a stranger to their own family, unable to grasp their own situation, seeing friends as enemies, memories eroding, support systems leaving.  Even when surrounded by others, the sufferer may feel alone.  Million Moons contributes moments of grace amidst the battle, typically at the edges of tracks, urging family members to stay the course.  The piano passage at the center of “Midnight Madness” is particularly poignant.

The title track and “Sing to the Moon” shift the script, beginning with thoughtful guitar, exploring dynamic contrast.  The former serves as an oasis: no disruptions, no eruptions, the end returning to the beginning, a good day.  The latter begins in restive fashion before picking up density and speed. “Green Eyes Turned Grey” crashes into a chaotic drone.  A final struggle now seems inevitable, the album marching inexorably toward the nine-minute finale, “Mia.”

Dementia does not have a happy ending.  The progressive disease leaves behind only tears and for some, a bittersweet sense of relief.  “Mia” seems to convey the aftermath, from music box nostalgia to a grateful midsection, the gentle arrival of drums and the fullness of song ~ the celebration of a life.  The unintended erosion of the patient’s mind is matched by the intentional excision of harsh memories by family and friends, who wish to remember their loved one as she was when she was fully herself, in hopes that she is now fully restored.  (Richard Allen)

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