Poison Stream – MOAT (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Although the world occasionally moves forward through leaps of faith and lateral thinking, generally it advances through more gradual and accomodating steps. And this is certainly true of music. Forget all of those jarring fusions of conflicting genres, which those looking to create the next fad and fashion try to sell us as the first line of music’s next chapter. The reality lies in far more subtle sonic machinations.

MOAT is a great example of what actual musical progress sounds like, a heady blend of chiming, familiar guitar sounds and forward-thinking electronica. But that alone counts for nothing if you don’t have the songs. MOAT, a collaboration between Marty Willson-Piper and Niko Röhlcke has them in spades. Songs that blend sounds and styles, which jump generic demarcations, which nod to the past whilst looking to the future, which rock out as easily as they tug at heartstrings, play by their own rules and which, despite all of that, never sound remotely like anything other than their own, signature sound.

On the one hand, opener Acid Rain is a driving, grooving, rock contender, swathed in glorious textures and dark edge, forged of drifting electronica and rhythmic guitars. By contrast, The Ballad of Sweet Marie is a timeless, alt-folk waltz that shimmers and shimmies across the listener’s senses. And if such songs map the range of intensity found on Poison Stream, when you compared the gentle, picked guitar of The Folly or Tears Will Come against the digital backdrop and affected soundscapes of Judgement Day you also see how broad a sound palette they are prepared to work with.

Willson-Piper and Röhlcke dance deftly together to create this eMOATive sound. One creating guitar-scapes that shimmer and chime and drive and lull, the other weaving electronic washes and blends between, behind and beyond the structured notes. And all the time Marty Willson-Piper’s dulcet tones expertly call the tune, ranging from intimate and understated whispers to more robust workouts but even when adopting the foot-on-the-monitor moves, is nothing but elegant and eloquent in his delivery.

Marty Willson-Piper has always made music that moved with the times, collaborating and juggling numerous projects to ensure that variation and musical exploration were always at the heart of what he does. In Niko Röhlcke he has found the perfect musical foil and friend and Poison Stream is a wonderful album because of it. One which acknowledges the past, makes music for the present but always seems to look to the future.

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