MoonBladder is the sophomore album by Snares Of Sixes, a collective of constantly changing musicians led by Jason Walton, probably best known as the bassist for Agalloch. The list of artists can be found at the end of this review, but I did not have credits that detailed when each was playing.
MoonBladder is a single track clocking in at 29:28. On one hand, it can be considered a unified soundscape, because the dark ambient, doom metal undercurrent present at its onset is constantly with the listener, regardless of other elements stacked on top of it. On the other hand, there are so many twists and turns in the piece it transcends the stigma sometimes associated with the term ‘soundscape’.
After this bare and dark foundation is laid, some basic drumming enters and the 1:04 mark, and then around 1:55, Walton’s bass becomes more prominent and keyboard pulses are added, this builds slowly to just over the 3:00 mark, where we receive the first significant change in dynamics – it turns louder, and the drumming becomes more percussive and prominent.
In the following six minutes or so, the soundscape gives way to an open canvas where noises and blips, washes of krautrock keys, and blasts of aggression from bass and drums come and go, no particular motif lasting very long.
The soundscape returns around the 9:00 mark but now with more layers of intricate passages from various instruments. There’s an advantage of not knowing who is playing when, as the overall sense of the track becomes vast openness and improvisation. Indeed, one wonders how much Walton mapped out and how much came from collaboration. There are certainly passages that evoke Dreadnought and Kayo Dot, who have members contributing here.
If you like Agalloch or Walton’s early work, post-rock or blackened folk metal, you will enjoy the journey that is MoonBladder…
This phase of the piece lasts until 22:44. There, a haunting and more melodic entry enters, reminiscent of folk metal like Agollach or Empyrium. It also harkens back to the earliest long Pink Floyd works, such as Atom Heart Mother.
Vocals have been sparse until now and become more prominent. At first it sounds like chanting, and then words are discernible. Toby Driver is credited with lyrics, but as is common in the post-rock and darker metal genres, the lyrics are mixed into the background, the music is of primary importance.
After a brief silence, there’s a final turn at 26:50, some old school psychedelic organ leads the way, and the first clean vocals follow. This finale is the least dark and most melodic section, and at 28:25 some space rock tones and deeper bass draw this intricate work to a close. The track ends where a lot of other bands would just be getting started, another twist to this abstract and meditative work that requires attention and patience to fully absorb.
If you like Agalloch or Walton’s early work, post-rock or blackened folk metal, you will enjoy the journey that is MoonBladder. And to round up this review, the musicians who contribute to the near thirty-minute track are Jason Walton, Marius Sjøli, Robert Hunter, Martti Hill, Don Anderson, Toby Driver, Ron Varod, Ramin Hosseinabad, Peter Lee, Lauren Viera, Andy Winter, Nick Wusz and Davide Tiso.
Scribed by: George Wilhite