Album Appreciation: Exoplanets by Moths and Locusts

When I wrote my review of the previous Moths and Locusts release, ‘Intro/ Outro’ (click here), in 2017 I thought about how what we call(ed) ‘psych’ was gradually diffusing it’s borders to become part of a more broad underground scene. I cited a number of bands who were experimenting with a number of different genre as they developed and progressed their own musical journey.

Looking back from a perspective af three more years it could be argued that ‘psych’ is/ was only ever a sort of cosmic bag into which we put our musical pick ‘n’ mix… perhaps more an attitude than a style. The truth, I suspect, is that the term is such an ephemeral concept that should and will never be resolved.

It was this that convinced me to rename my blog (it used to be ‘Psych Insight Music’) in order to get past such arbitrary distinctions… So why bring it up now?

Well it’s because it was only when I read that ‘Intro/ Outro’ review that I even thought of this new album by Moths and Locusts in ‘psych’ terms… previous listens having just reminded me of what a great band they are. Here’s a nice potted history in their own words:

2020 marks ten years of existential exploration for Nanaimo BC space rock sextet MOTHS & LOCUSTS, a decade that saw the band release a trio of acclaimed LPs (2013’s Mission Collapse, 2016’s Helios Rising and 2017’s Intro/Outro) alongside numerous assorted EPs and 7” singles. In addition to the aforementioned albums under their own name, they also released a double live album with legendary Can frontman Damo Suzuki in 2014, plus 2019’s Think Pink IV: Return to Deep Space collaboration album with Pink Fairies/Pretty Things man Twink.

I think that I need to say straight away that all three previous studio albums have been landmarks for me over the last seven years, each adding to my own understanding of music and how to listen to it. For me they are one of a select pack who seem to start afresh with each album… and as such it is important to have few expectations when you approach something new. I also find bringing albums out every three years to be a good gap in terms of listening lifecycles… each one being played relatively regularly until the next one, and then perhaps less so after that, but when you do they always astound and surprise.

So anyway enough already… what does Exoplanets sound like? Well, once again, it sounds really different, but also sounds like a Moths and Locusts album… the tracks are eclectic, but have those flourishes every so often which bring you back to the Moths and Locusts mothership…

Let’s get cracking with ‘Cocaine Kangaroo’, which you think is going to launch into some space rock odyssey, but actually bangs into a massive Sabbath riff that just wins you over during minute one. After that they hit the Hawkwind thrusters and I have to admit I was pretty much aural putty in their sonic hands. This is just such a great rock song which a catchy chorus that somehow just makes you feel good from the outset.

After that ‘Ghengis Khan’ is for me a wonderful melange of bands such as ‘The Myrrors’ desert rock and ‘Dreamtime’s’ tribal space rock… there’s a definite kraut influence in here too… but this thing that I marvelled about the most is how well it is all put together.

‘Nero’s Surgery’ begins a little bit under the radar, and you have to take a few moments to adjust yourself to it… the more downbeat approach and static flying all over the place mean that it’s the sonic equivalent of driving into a tunnel… your ears need to adjust, but when they do it’s a soporific zone-out which gets you ready for ‘A Ram Named Drama’ with it’s motorik beat, fuzz-laden guitars and spacey synths. Now you really are in a cosmic tunnel powering your way through a luminescent tie-dye universe heading straight for the third-eye of a storm nebula.

It’s initially back to rock basics with ‘Avulsion’ as the beat drives the track forward… however, it is then slowly breaks down in a way that reminded me of The Stranglers transition from ‘The Raven’ to ‘The Gospel According to the Men in Black’… on one level totally unexpected and even alienating for many, but for those who stick with it a rewarding if slightly unsettling process.

This, though, is only a prelude to the monster that is the title track, the fifteen minute plus ‘Exoplanets’. In one sense it is hard to write about the beginning because you know what is coming… but from the first few bars you get the sense that this is going to be something epic… just listen to the different elements that come and go in the first five minutes or so… and how the bass, in particular, gradually ups the ante… before fragmenting into the mix. From there all bets really are off as the band hits a frenzy of distortion before dropping back into a heady bucolic moment… an oasis of calm before the guitar and flute hit you in a sort of scissor action on your soul… the raw and the cooked hitting you from all angles… the stereo mix in particular playing all sorts of games with your perceptions…

At around nine minutes in you think that the whole thing is calming down and heading for a quiet denouement… but… as the flute appears to be playing you out in the most luscious of ways a wall of surreal voices hits you… for a moment you are in the middle of a Picasso… Guernica, The Weeping Woman, The Guitarist, Girl with Mandolin all come to mind… and then you’re through it and back in the hyper reality of a space rock riff taking you seemingly inexorably toward the mysteriously heavy emptiness of a black hole.. set your controls because it feels like it is going to be a rough yet glorious landing! And so it is… in the most grand of styles.

How do you follow that… well with ‘Fresh Red Blood’… an understated yet wonderfully chilled out way to finish the album. Its easy experimentalism somehow brings you back to some sort of reality, it’s as cozy as a selection of pops and beats can be and underline, if that were needed, how this band can confound expectations and genre.

Well as far as I’m concerned Moths and Locusts have done it again… they have once more produced a wonderful album of eclectic tunes which takes you on unexpected journeys, with equally unexpected sharp turns alone they way. They do so in a manner that just feels right every time. Furthermore I am very much looking forward to sitting with this set over the next three years… while introducing it to its three predecessors… together the form as good an oeuvre as I’ve heard in the last decade.

‘Exoplanets’ is released by Noiseagonymayhem (Canada) and The Weird Beard (UK)



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