Thursday, August 10, 2017

John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas!

John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas!

The seventeen track opus The Fall and Rise of John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas! 

hails from a different place in popular music’s history when daring performers stood committed to breaking the well established forms of pop music and imposing artistic considerations on their work that the art form was supposedly too limited to ever accommodate. Elderkin is one of the best songwriters in America today – no joke. His album combines deceptively simple musical arrangements with lyrical depth that doesn’t much more than acknowledge his artistic and musical debts. His personality and experiences emerge fully formed from this release while his love for the form lights up the collection with a surfeit of inspiration reaching far beyond what many of his contemporaries release or aspire to. The Fall and Rise of John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas! is quite unlike anything else you’ll encounter in 2017 and, more than likely, for years to come.  
It begins on a relatively sedate note. “We Waited Five Years” comes across, in some ways, as a post-modern folk song and finds firm footing in the singer/songwriter genre, but Elderkin’s sensibility is such that he can’t resist tweaking our expectations with some unusual variations of texture and sound, particularly on the song’s second half.. “The Message” shows Elderkin moving in much more distant, experimental territory. There are no vocals in the traditional sense, only an assortment of chant like voices moving over a keyboard laced backing track. It has a vaguely spiritual air that listeners aren’t likely to pin down to one particular place. “Song for David Bowie” starts off as an acoustic track coupled with Elderkin’s vocal and gradually transitions into a more assertive arrangement during the second half. “Don’t Look Right at the Sun” moves through a number of different moods and tempos before concluding with a guitar-laden final section that brings everything to an explosive conclusion. The vocal is especially rugged and passionate – Elderkin’s versatility in attacking the softer and more rambunctious numbers alike is well worth noting.  
“Get Back in the Van” is a slice of life from the struggles of a touring indie band. There’s plenty of humor in this piece, one of the album’s more underrated virtues, and the lyrically mix of concrete detail with suggestiveness makes it quite a memorable ride. Elderkin  takes a much more sensitive turn with the piano driven arrangement and a singing performance from Elderkin that covers all possible bases. “Fat Levon on Acid” is an outright freakout and sound s sort of incongruous placed along side the earlier tracks, but it’s some good fun regardless. The ragged march pushing “Megaphone on the Moon” has a ragged but right quality about ot that slowly draws you in. The Fall and Rise of John Elderkin and ¡Moonbeams No Mas! is a first class operation of powerhouse musicians and superior songwriting talent and this album represents a quantum shift in how Elderkin will be perceived from this point forward. 

Scott Wigley

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