Album Reviews

Moheir – A Rough Soundtrack

If you’ve read my article on The Resonance Rock Festival you will know how much of a life changing and life affirming event it was to me. One of the highlights of the festival was hearing so much new music and meeting so many nice musicians.

I’ve often stated before that being a music writer is almost akin to being a modern day treasure hunter, seeking out new bands that will often give me a ‘eureka’ moment in my musical journey. When I happen to dig up something brand new that gives me an instant buzz it is always an exciting time as music is what makes my life go round and gives the silver lining to a lot of the clouds in my life.

I know I’ve really hit the bullseye when I unearth something that is quite unique and cannot be classified as anything I’ve ever heard before. These are few and far between but, when I find them, I am one exceedingly happy bunny.

Taking to the Synergy stage on Friday night at Resonance were the young Italian band Moheir and, after only hearing a couple of songs from their set, I was immediately hooked and I knew I’d unearthed some musical buried treasure.

Gaining kudos as members of the Roman band Moebius Brain between 2005 and 2009, the trio of Marcello Gagliastro (bass), Nicola Saba (guitars) and Federico Leo (drums) decided to put all the experience they had gained over the past four years into a project that would broaden their musical horizons and take them in new directions.

In 2010, the trio recorded their first EP titled “Miss Tavor” containing the following tracks with the collaboration of Alessandro Cardinal on sax. After a period of recollection that included the reorganization of the line up, Moheir were back in the rehearsal room with new drummer Julian Bellisario, with Alessandro now a permanent member the band were ready to continue their musical adventure.

In January 2014, the band entered the studio to record the next album, released officially on May 16, 2014 under the title ‘A Rough Soundtrack’.

I write this review with the benefit of having seen the band play live, they are incredibly expressive on stage and it was going to be interesting to see if that expressivity came across from the recording too.

The album opens with Wave Pressure, all ominous and suspenseful at the start. Then it rockets off with a waa-waa line straight out of the 70’s and a sax sound so cool it should be in the blast freezer. This is jazz/funk music with a tiny drop of progressive thrown in for good measure. The guitar work is distorted and brilliant and the keys just shout free-form jazz at me from every angle. Imagine seeing these guys in a smoky underground club packed to the rafters with sweaty bodies swaying to and fro. Cinemon carries on with that 70’s jazz feel and has a key line that could be a soundtrack of an adventure series. It rattles along at a fair pace goading you to keep up. I suppose it is the closest track to improvisation that the album gets. Alessandro really gives his sax the beans and delivers a superlative funk infused performance. Add in the Starsky and Hutch guitar and we are really with it! Time to add in a dose of sunshine and go more melodic, Hammer Serenade has the band delivering a grin inducing track that just capers along with a smile always on the edge of its lips. It is a really expressive song where the guitar, sax and drums get together for a fun time jazz session, perhaps not as deep as the first two tracks but no less enjoyable as a result.

Heisenberg, the first video from the album,starts at a frenetic rate and then chills down a little to deliver a quality track that is addictive and off kilter at the same time. This is pure progressive jazz (have I just invented a new genre there?) with different time signatures and an aesthetic purpose. In places it is quite a heavy and dense sound that delves deep into your aural soul. That edgy feelcontinues with Past Dust, a headlong rush that you have to keep up with at your peril. This song is quite soulful and pleading, clamouring for your attention, like a wayward child. Moheir are incredibly inventive at heart and keep digging into their bag of magical musical tricks to create another expressive layer at will, especially on this soul baring track. Need a Gun has an emotional feel to it, a dignity that commands respect. Like a beautiful lament, it is slow and considered and achingly beautiful. The compassion that Alessandro emanates on his playing is wonderful and this song stops me dead in my tracks upon every listen. The bass and drum work is exquisite and Nicola’s guitar playing has authority and gravitas. On a great album this is the stand out track and you find yourself returning to it again and again, superb.

Oh do I love a song with a feelgood edge to it and in An 80’s Italian Sunny Sunday you get just that. This soulful, jazz led fusion is incredibly addictive and the simple riff is a pleasure to listen to. Alessandro gives his best again on the sax as he leads the track along its merry way. There is a definite cheerful feel to the whole song and it is overflowing with positive energy. Clashing and jarring and then firing off haphazardly, White Space Conflicts is funky and offbeat and ferments a hubbub of agitated noise, like the James Taylor Quartet after too many illegal substances. Progressively tinged in places but with one and a half feet definitively in the modern jazz arena, this is a pleasing cacophony of mellifluous noise. Every time the opening notes of Firelands Theme begin I immediately smile before putting my Stetson and poncho on and clamping a cheroot between my teeth. A nod to Ennio Morricone  or not, it is a superb western style tune with twangy guitar and a meditative, deliberate beat that just delivers in spades. I really like it and it just shows that the band have as big a sense of humour as they do creativity.

‘A Rough Soundtrack’ is a rather fine effort by this Italian foursome. In places it is the epiphany of cool and in others it is a modern jazz classic. They are described as an ‘underground’ band which, to me, is slightly insulting. They should be out there in everyone’s faces and, with any luck, this album will put them at the forefront of avant-garde progressive jazz where they belong. Two words sum up my thoughts on this album – ‘buy it’!

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