The 27th release of Rachel Evans’s Motion Sickness of Time Travel project, Ballade For A Buck Moon, is an album I’m finding tremendously difficult to talk about. I’m a bit rusty and having something of an off day when it comes to writing it seems, and the right words and thoughts don’t seem to be flowing forth for some reason. Which is a shame because despite MSOTT’s prodigious but at times rather disappointing discography, Buck Moon is a really interesting little number that’s been a pretty, subdued little release for me to enjoy these last couple of weeks.
Buck Moon, along with the other 10 albums currently in the series, is the latest installment of celestially inspired music from MSOTT, with each record in the Ballade series titled for and named after the Native American designation for the full moon of each month in the year, Buck of course being July’s. The content of the album doesn’t seem too far removed sonically from the works I’ve heard from MSOTT before; synth summoned drones dominate with some sprinklings of delicate electronica interspersed throughout to give it some sense of motion, attached to occasional waves of lo-fi processings giving it some welly, and all of it deeply ethereal and hauntingly delicate.
Something that I find particularly interesting is that, despite the album having a number of discrete phases and sequences, there’s nothing preventing you from jumping in at pretty much anytime; that’s not a criticism, I think it’s definitely possible to dive in anywhere and not feel like you’ve missed out on anything, because much of the album wallows in very similar progressions of sparse, organ-like drone engaged in competitions of diminishing volume and activity levels. Quivering currents often lie beneath the more actively driving drones, squeezing out thin movements of distorted vision, the trembling mirage of the Moon through a telescope or the twinkling of its accompanying stars, jittering through atmospheric distortion in the clear Summer skies. It’s just that there’s not huge amounts of evolution here to get caught up in is all.
There’s an unavoidable sense of isolation here I feel as well, of incredible loneliness and separation, like we’ve deliberately distanced ourselves to watch the rise and progression of the Buck Moon specifically. Or perhaps it’s simply a side effect of night, a feeling of seclusion and quiet disconnect from reality and civilisation as people retreat to bed through the witching hour, us alone left to our own devices, to feel that deeper connection to nature that so many of us are losing in our steel and concrete shells. This sensation grows strongly through the later parts of the album, where hauntingly beautiful wafts of ethereal, echoic and distant vocal coos come washing through the mix, soft prayers of thanks to Mother Nature singing out alone, especially potent following the more confident and moderately more empowered/louder sequences through the mid-album as we come more to terms with that isolation.
I do have some concerns though; I think the album is really beauteous and interesting to listen to as it ebbs and flows, the Moon moving through the trees and the clouds, but it never really feels climactic and the evolution feels almost absent. I’d love there to be some sense of progression other than the rotation of the Moon from horizon to horizon but it often doesn’t feel like there’s much meat in between that, no really strong, overarching emotional progression from a personal standpoint, our thoughts and actions and perceptions warping through time. That being said, I love the way it becomes sleepy and fragile in its closing chapter, dying slowly as it sinks over the now lightening horizon and marking our turn for home and hearth as the lo-fi pulses stop appearing and the thrumming synths collapse into daylight. It’s a sparse release to be sure, and I would say that it actually demands to be listened specifically at this time of year, preferably at night and outside where you can couple it with that warm Summer breeze as you gaze skywards. Peaceful and charming, I like it.