self-titled – Moonraker
Immergent Records 282014-2
Some albums defy categorization. This was introduced to me as "Lake Trout
meets Bjork," which has some merit, and Portishead comparisons are not out
of line. Still, no direct comparison sticks. The band calls it
"livetronica," which, on its own, is nothing shocking in this scene as a
number of bands mimic electronic music in their live playing, but none do it
quite like this. Moonraker's emphasis leans heavily toward the vocal while
most electronica-inspired acts lean toward the instrumental. Furthermore,
those bands dabble in rougher fare, while Moonraker stays within the lighter
and smoother realms of electronica and avoids the crunch of techno and the
grit of drum and bass.
Atop it all sit the vocals of Kelli Scarr, whose often R & B-influenced
works about half of the time. The intimacy of "Salimander Skin" doesn't
connect, but the pair that transitions from "The Desert" into "These Walls"
does, as the band moves into a funk groove where Scarr seems most at home.
resolution to "These Walls" stretches far away from the song's opening
statement and into spaces where the band seems most comfortable. Scarr
settles just as comfortably into the hip-hop inflected "The Rescue," which
features some fine scratching and excellent production before the band again
takes the reigns and heads to the dance floor. Similarly, "These Walls"
builds smoothly into a chorus with a clean, busy beat and a great wah'd
guitar lick. When the band wanders, it falls into crisp, passages that help
their "livetronica" description make sense.
It is indeed a difficult album to pin down, and part of that seems to be the
band's eclecticism. While there is a continuity to the razor-sharp drum
lines and production that makes this cohere, the diversity of material shows
a band still partly searching for an identity. The disc in the end is
listenable and danceable, but the band and the vocalist seem to pull in
different directions from time to time. The band seems to pull toward the
dance floor while the singer often leans toward more introspective, r&b
styled material. The tension brings half of the album to life and leaves
the rest flat on its back.