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MoonMot: Going Down The Well

Bruce Lindsay By

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Six musicians from the UK and Switzerland, with a strong background in improvisation and a talent for mixing acoustic and electronic instrumentation, creating tunes which move from the gentle, Rhodes-led, intro to "35 Years" and the bass-sax interplay which opens "Threnody Of The English Polity" to the raucous baritone sax of the title track—that is MoonMot on Going Down The Well.

The sextet formed in 2017 when saxophonists Dee Byrne (Entropi, Deemer) and Cath Roberts (Sloth Racket, Favourite Animals) were invited, by the organisers of Jazzwerkstatt Bern, to perform as part of a UK/Swiss collaboration. By 2019 the group had become MoonMot, recording its debut release while on a Swiss tour. A key element of the band is the relatively rare horn line-up of alto sax, baritone sax and trombone (played by Simon Petermann, who also produced the album), which gives MoonMot's music a rich, warm sound—especially when all three horns are blasting out together. Oli Kuster's Fender Rhodes brings a lighter tone to the sound, while understated playing by bassist Seth Bennett and drummer Johnny Hunter is always worth paying attention to, even if it is occasionally overwhelmed by the horns.

Some descriptions of MoonMot refers to the band's "punk attitude," but that doesn't mean that the music betrays any punk inspiration: none of the high-speed riffage of The Damned, or the aggression of Stiff Little Fingers or Bethnal, certainly none of the "why play three chords when you can get away with two" approach of punk's second division. Indeed, MoonMot seem more aligned with the approach of prog rockers like King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator. The aforementioned "Threnody," written by Bennett, is a multi-layered piece which moves on from its introductory calm to gradually bring in more frenetic saxophones interacting with muted trombone wails and subdued electronic effects, while never losing the composer's hypnotic four-note bass riff—a mix of sophisticated playing and restraint. Kuster's "Avignon" is a brighter, cheerier number which showcases the band's more playful side, as well as its talent for building and relieving tension by shifting the musical focus between different instruments.

Going Down The Well is released on CD, vinyl and as a download; this review is of the vinyl release, a beautifully-packaged item which makes the most of the cover artwork and offers digital access to two additional tracks.

Track Listing

Going Down The Well; 35 Years; The Roundabout; Threnody For The English Polity; Avignon; Sonata d'Alouatta.

Personnel

MoonMot: band/orchestra; Simon Petermann: trombone; Cath Roberts: saxophone, baritone; Oli Kuster: keyboards; Seth Bennett: bass, acoustic; Johnny Hunter: drums; Dee Byrne: saxophone, alto.

Album information

Title: Going Down The Well | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Unit Records

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