This month sees the release of the eagerly awaited second album from UK alternative rock trio Maths and The Moon. It has been not too many weeks short of three years since their debut full-length, Night Train Daydream caught and captivated ears and imagination with its tapestry of droning seduction and fire drenched melodies spun with uncompromising invention. Familiar Strange is the natural and bold evolution of its predecessor’s sound and character; a generally calmer proposal with fascination and maturity flowing through every pore yet still creatively, an unpredictable and forcibly adventurous exploit.
Southampton bred and made up of vocalist/guitarist/principal songwriter Andy Fielder, drummer Luke Taplin, and bassist Matt Hirst, Maths and The Moon has persistently provided sounds and sonic explorations which have challenged as powerfully as they have enthralled. Formed around 2010, the band made its live debut supporting the legendary Can frontman Damo Suzuki, building on that thick interest sparking moment thereon in before sparking rich acclaim with Night Train Daydream in 2013. The album was an experimental fusion of psych rock and post punk with plenty more involved. Familiar Strange similarly embraces those hues but with an even richer array of equally dramatic flavours involved. It provides a sound and experience which is less spiky than on the first album, even more welcoming melodically and emotionally in many ways, yet still immerses the listener in landscapes as imaginatively scenic as they are emotionally invasive.
The trio has honed their sound and ideas into aural tales, where words and notes collude to cast individual glimpses into shadowed hearts and emotive reflections whilst, to use the words in the album’s press release, losing the listener “in the forest with nothing but shadows, memories and strangely familiar characters.” It all begins with recent single Futurist, a song instantly imposing on ears through the rumbling bass and some heftily swung beats as the guitar spreads an evocative jangle. That relatively forceful first touch soon mellows into a calmer incitement, the song prowling on its rhythms as the inviting tones of Fielder croon over the web of sonic enterprise and drama. The volatility which persistently courts the track does erupt in its chorus to fine effect, arousing ears and appetite further before the song swings through its merger of all aspects while smouldering harmonies and melodic flames colour the fiercely infectious encounter.
There is a touch of Muse about the opener, but just a passing whiff before a Pixies-esque spicing emerges in the following Magic. Again it is a scent in an offering uniquely Maths and the Moon; a track which merges a charming sonic irritability with tenacious beats and the spiny lure of the bass. As with the first, the song is inescapably contagious, inciting body and ears with equal prowess and success whilst its fuzzy air and emotive drama seals the imagination’s involvement. Across its length, it blossoms an increasingly blistered surface to its melodies and voice, flirting with a Jesus and Mary Chain meets scorched shoegaze like glazing, while superbly continuing the impressive start to the album with a success quickly backed up by Amongst Trees and its shadow grasped balladry. It is a subdued and mesmeric persuasion where poetically suggestive guitar and voice hug ears as drums and bass build a pulsating frame around them. A thicker stroll of psych rock does emerge within the track, another enticement as catchy as it is soothing in the album, which in turn breeds a rolling rhythmic incitement which provides the hook for celestial harmonies and sultry melodies to hang around.
Howling is another with that alternative meets indie rock essence to its persuasion, the Maths and The Moon seemingly inspired again by the Frank Black kind of songwriting in the creation of their very own addictive tango on the ear. A sizzling slice of dark pop, the track hits the sweet spot dead centre, an accuracy matched by the outstanding In The Ellipse. The track is a ten minute instrumental providing a rhythmic canter with suggestive melodies and lively enterprise in its creative mane. The virulent ride has the scent of The Cure to it, their kind of emotive theatre laid in a tenaciously sculpted and offered gallop though an ever shifting and descriptive landscape.
From the warm and bright emprise of the last track, The Collector envelops ears with a haunting and intimately melancholic sigh. As with the previous ballad, the song is a minimalistic proposal coaxing ears and emotions, but luring full attention with an underlying infectiousness to compliment the maudlin shadows and the great repetitive coaxing around Fielder’s magnetic vocals.
In the band’s first album, Wire often came to mind but not with Familiar Strange, not until Boomerang anyway which weaves some colder steely hues reminiscent of the great band into its low key but snarling seduction of the senses. It is simply just another texture though, taken and twisted to suit and fit what, the album continues to prove, is their most distinctive and robustly compelling sound yet.
Familiar Strange is brought to a close by firstly the solemn acoustic balladry and heart of As The Crow Flies, though a song building a pyre of emotion and sound which burns with more intensity by its departure, and finally, the haze soaked psychedelic saunter and mesmerism of Psych-Seeing. Providing a riveting end to a thrilling encounter, the track glows and resonates across the senses like charmed smog with a melody spilling lighthouse at its heart.
It is fair to say that Night Train Daydream impressed and still does but Familiar Strange is Maths and The Moon on a whole other plateau offering their most exciting and accessible but still invigoratingly experimental proposal yet.
Familiar Strange is released May 20th @ http://mathsandthemoon.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 19/05/2016
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