There’s a scene in “Nowhere Boy” when a young John Lennon turns to the even younger Paul McCartney and asks, “How’d you get to be so smart?” It’s always a curious thing to see something so mature coming from the pen or hands of someone without the breadth of experience behind ‘em. And in many ways Brisbane’s Mosman Alder seem to fit this to a tee.
The six-piece have just released their five-track, debut EP. The press photo shows a group that are easily in their early 20s and yet their music is so refined and diverse that it’s as sophisticated as a particularly good drop of red. It could be due to the fact there are so many different personalities at play. Or it could just be that among their ranks is no less than: a classical pianist, a heavy-metal drummer, a Scottish violinist and a bassist whose relative was in Powderfinger.
The name Mosman Alder came about because the former is the name of a place near Cairns. The latter meanwhile is the wood their guitars are made from and is also the name of a Celtic God of the Underworld. The truth is a lot of mythology and mystery has found its way into the lyrics. Frontman, Valdis Valodze’s writes less about his own personal life, instead favouring more vivid and mystical stories. And yet, the material still manages to be emotionally charged and glowing, which is no mean feat.
“Jasmine” opens with an epic sound that includes some Chieftains-like strings, plenty of sadness and alcohol plus Valodze’s deep, baritone croon. These caramel vocals are what drive a lot of the songs and only add to the sprawling and theatrical space the group navigates. This terrain includes the depths of the heart and mind and is done with an absolute ease as they pass through some rather striking visuals like the “Jasmine on her grave”.
Another image that stays with you is in “Raisin Heart” i.e. one of the latter shriveling up so much that it resembles the former. It has a lush atmosphere and that already powerful voice is joined by some female harmonies that soar straight up to heaven. Although it sounds like it has come straight from a leather-bound fiction book or yellowed scroll written in quill ink, in reality it was written while traveling through Germany and reading Kafka.
“Mr Pinckney & The Beast” is some smack-bam, propelling rock. It should therefore come as no surprise that one of the co-producers on this effort was none other than Sean Cook, previously from Yves Klein Blue. It also comes with the positive line: “We all rise up from the darkness below your feet”. The final tracks include “The Ice Queen Of Silver Screen,” one with keys that flutter like butterflies and twinkle like stars while “These Hands” sounds like it has come straight from a black and while film soundtrack but is certainly more colourful.
Mosman Alder are one wise band that produces grand melodramas under a mysterious cloak. At just 20 minutes, it is dynamic and exquisitely crafted. Sure, it’s a bit dark but it is also mostly beautiful and extremely interesting thanks to its textured, indie pop/rock sounds. One for fans of The National, The Go-Betweens and The Middle East, with a debut this good you can rest assured that this group’s future is going to burn bright.
Originally published on 3 June 2012 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/burn_bright_mosman_alder
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