We cannot claim to have an in depth knowledge of folk music let alone the traditional Scottish Folk and the more contemporary folk which are both said to influence the sounds of Matt Norris & The Moon, but it is impossible to miss the fine and vibrant sounds which weave their graceful elegance and passion within their debut EP This Kingdom. The release is a mesmeric introduction to most for the band with four songs thick in emotion and defined in craft and passion.
Formed in 2009 by Matt Norris (guitar, lead vocals) and Tom MacColl (bass) who met at the University of Edinburgh, the band soon expanded with the addition of Dave Law (trumpet, mandolin) after the duo started playing at his open mic nights, as well as Helen Cookson (fiddle, flute) and Dale Birrel (keys, accordion). It did not take them long to become a strong presence in the newly emerging Edinburgh folk scene and beyond with the quintet, after working hard realising and giving definition to their sound, sharing stages with the likes of Ben Howard, Villagers, Lucy Rose, Pete Roe, Rachel Sermanni, Alphabet Backwards, Kitty the Lion, Dry the River, Three Blind Wolves, Woodenbox and Chasing Owls and initially making a mark with tan opening set at the Edinburgh Hogmanay Concert in Gardens supporting Sons & Daughters, Bombay Bicycle Club and Primal Scream. Their music is a warm and open blend of smoothly caressing harmonies, thoughtful melodies, and heart fuelled coming together of striking guitar and double bass with sparking trumpet, fiddle, flute, and accordion. All combined they make sounds which fill the songs with an evocative breath and captivating energy.
Released on 17 Seconds Records the EP instantly enchants and takes one into the rich and impassioned heart of the release. Opening song Roots Below slowly dawns on the vocals of Norris wrapped in a welcoming trumpet and gentle guitar grasp. The wonderful voice of Cookson adds an extra flush of warmth as the song slowly opens its arms before pulling one into its full and energised embrace. One fully unveiled the song is an enthusiastic and infectious stomp that gives a hope and life to the lyrical tale engaged in the aftermath of a broken relationship.
The quieter and emotive Eyes of a Storm follows next bringing an air of uncertainty and hope walking hand in hand. It carries a traditional Scottish lilt to its conversation with the senses, the accordion and fiddle sparking feelings and thoughts into action. In two songs the band shows a varied swim within their songwriting, both songs connecting with passion through different musical doorways and something the other compositions match equally.
Shadow from the Sun is the best track on This Kingdom and a song which removes one from their thoughts into a full and rounded vision of a soul in reflection. From the enchanting flute lighting up the ear the song is a busy and controlled stroll of inventive melodies, stirring guitar, and an impressively balanced uplifting flurry of flute and trumpet imagination. The song is uplifting and leading towards a defiant climatic realisation and strength, its power and lass easily capturing the imagination and heart.
The EP closes with The Shallows an atmospheric and slightly mournful song which opens through a brooding slightly droning entrance with great bass moodiness from MacColl. The song reminds a little of another Scottish band Letters in its atmosphere and darkened sense of frustration and wastage of time.
This Kingdom is an impressive and evocative release that touches deeply with skill and understanding. It is a masterful pleasure and indicates Matt Norris & The Moon as a band that not only in folk music but further afield has a promising and distinct future ahead.