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"Where The Stars Fall" by Man Made Moon

Review

I'm really pleased today to be able to review the brand new single from Man Made Moon called  "Where The Stars Fall": my first since "Weightless"  in May 2019 (and I'm sure you are familiar with their "Not So Haunted" which appears on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two').

Quite how Ben Taylor (lead singer and rhythm guitar), Gary Ryan (bass) Ian Black (lead guitar) Nick Mew (guitar) and Colin Bean (drums) managed to convene to create it is mysterious: if they recorded their parts separately then even more kudos for how organically & sympathetically the elements blend. Respect too for the care which has gone into the production.

One thing which never ceases to impress me is how a five piece band with an apparent rock configuration line up tends to produce such delicate & haunting music. "Where The Stars Fall" continues this tradition very strongly & emphasises how "more instruments" doesn't necessarily mean "greater volume" but instead offers more subtle threads of filigree poignancy woven through the arrangement. This naturally requires several special approaches: the band members show admirable taste & restraint in their playing with respect for each other, allowing their colleagues space to play & a production (by Nick Mew) sophisticated enough to allow us to hear all of this (you could actually hear a proverbial pin drop at some points).

As ethereal as much of the work to date, this song floats in mid air, high above the earth (although some of the action it describes takes place at ground level, before lifting off), raising the protagonists above the mundane. There is consequently a wonderful spiritual aspect to the story, appropriate to the season, and one can discern elements of C S Lewis (and Raymond Briggs) in the imagery & tone.

Vocals shimmer in & out of the mix (the choral parts towards the end are an impressive part), ghostly guitars similarly & I enjoyed the unusual pattering drum patterns which seemed to evoke snowfall or creatures lightly traversing it: fully in concert with the superb artwork by Christine Cuddihy.

Watch out for "Where The Stars Fall" as its release is imminent: visiting https://www.manmademoon.co.uk/ should alert you as to when you can acquire it. It's an exquisite song in the very fine tradition of this band & manages very successfully to transcend the worn out vocabulary of seasonal songs. It will lift you up with it, listeners.

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Man Made Moon supported by Noah Dobbie

Review

Here I go again: another evening spent in the company of really talented musicians who not only perform in a way that touches my soul but objectively demonstrate unique voices on stage & in what they write. We are truly living in a really great period for people producing such a stunning range of music, yet each one being true to themselves: and believe me I have heard plenty of material which doesn't fit in that box over the years.

You'll remember (I hope) my rhapsodising a few weeks ago over Evergreen, a comparatively recently formed band whose ascent is proving extremely rapid: since I reviewed them they have been selected to play the Main Stage at the Godiva Festival ahead of many much longer existing & frankly really good bands: check them out on the Saturday afternoon: I know I shall.

I said in that review how Evergreen comprised four great performers & writers: tonight the gig featured one of them, Noah Dobbie (she played guitar & ukulele with the group, tonight she accompanied herself on guitar apart from the final duet with Evergreen colleague Rikki Hansel).

I would not be surprised if reviews of Noah's gigs focused on her performance: and why not? She is a compelling & charismatic presence who drew a really enthusiastic response from the full venue. She has an excellent vocal range but the contralto end is special & what will probably get most mentions, as does her interesting delivery style & way of interpreting songs. However I think it is really important not to understate what a great writer she is too. Playing a set of her own compositions (including "Twenty" which she plays also with Evergreen), I found it impossible to identify any obvious comparisons to help readers understand quite what I heard. So you'll just have to go and see her live and form your own opinion. They certainly are very strong songs, highly idiosyncratic & occasionally a bit strange, albeit clearly within the bounds of classic songwriting. Whereas Evergreen as a band draw a lot from late 60s early 70s folk rock & blues, Noah sits within that framework to a certain extent, but far from entirely. Whatever her personal influences & inspirations are, she has channelled them into something entirely her own.

You can learn more about Noah at

https://www.facebook.com/noahdobbiemusic/

and her work with Evergreen at

https://www.facebook.com/evergreenharmonies/

You can catch her as part of Evergreen at the Godiva Festival on July 6th, the following day at the Stratford River Festival & on August 17th back at Temperance

I have reviewed headliners Man Made Moon's records in "Hot Music Live" in the past (current single "Weightless" in April and their "The Tourist" EP in January). I enjoyed both very much but catching them live is a subtly different experience. I found it hard to define why (and I discussed it with the whole band afterwards), but they did inject some form of extra magic in the performance, whether it was an element of "edge" or just the passion of playing songs they clearly had spent so long crafting.

What is disappointing is what a rare treat a Man Made Moon gig actually is. I mentioned in my previous reviews how well regarded they are (no band has spent longer on the HillzFM local charts) and believe me they are a stunning & captivating live act. Members do have other commitments including with other bands, but I would urge them to play more with the same emphasis as I'd recommend that you see them. They really are one of the best local live acts as well as producing excellent records.

Each track obviously has had a lot of time spent on crafting the detail as well as ensuring each is also a really strong song, memorable & impacting on the listener. With three guitarists, there is capacity of at least one each time to be processed (one sounded like an accordion at times: or a harmonica. Or both) and a laptop provided further elements such as an organ part. However this decidedly was not prog rock: the complexity of arrangements served the beauty of the songs rather than showing off musicianship.

The band, namely Ben Taylor (vocals & rhythm guitar), Colin Bean (who played superb cajon rather than his usual drums due to the venue), Nick Mew (guitar), Ian Black (lead guitar) and Gary Ryan (bass) were joined on backing vocals by Lucy Stanton  for the performance of "Weightless" & created a wonderful atmosphere in the space. The sound was pristine and although their trademark ethereal aspects were in evidence, a harder rock edge emerged from time to time, not least on new song "Rain" which  featured some scintillating guitar soloing. As with Noah, I found it hard to pin any direct comparisons down: looking back at my earlier reviews, I see I tentatively suggested Neil Young, John Lennon (they actually covered "Dear Prudence" as one of two covers along with a solo "Hallelujah" by Ben), Tom Petty, Barenaked Ladies & Pink Floyd as crutches for my attempts to describe them & I stand by all of these after the live experience, yet ultimately, their presumably myriad influences inform their music subtly & like their support act, merely form the background to their own unique style.

You can catch Man Made Moon at Napton Festival on July 6th, and the following day at Stratford River Festival. On July 19th they play Warwick Beer, Cider & Music Festival & on September 6th they return to Temperance to support The Bluetones' Mark Morriss.

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"Weightless" by Man Made Moon

Review

Isn't the artwork for the new Man Made Moon single "Weightless" great?  You'll be pleased to hear that the musical content rises to the challenge. To be released on 5th May, to mark the 58th anniversary of Alan Shepard of becoming the first American & second human into space, "Weightless" is also the trailblazer for the upcoming 'Daylight Ghosts' EP, their second.

On this beautiful & gentle track, which I imagine looks to evoke the sensations of floating in space with the view of earth beneath the singer, Ben Taylor (vocals & rhythm guitar), Colin Bean (drums & percussion), Nick Mew (guitar), Ian Black (lead guitar) and Gary Ryan (bass) with backing vocals by Lucy Stanton  are at their most ethereal.

Although the song may evoke such images, it is because they are used metaphorically: the song is a love song & a really effective one. The quietness leaves little space to hide inadequacies of singing nor playing, so it is good to announce that there are none of these. It's a most tasteful use of the "less is more" school of writing & arranging and as I commented when reviewing their EP "The Tourist", when you have multiple members, it must be tempting to use them all the time on a song & says much of their service to the integrity of songs such as "Weightless" that for long periods players offer silence rather notes to the arrangement.

You can catch Man Made Moon live at Temperance on June 14th (where the intimate space will really enhance songs like this), at Stratford River Festival on July 6th & on September 6th they'll be back at Temperance supporting Mark Morriss of the Bluetones.

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"The Tourist" by Man Made Moon

Review

 

One particular joy in writing reviews for "Hot Music Live" is that it almost certainly introduces me to artists unknown to me at a swifter rate than would otherwise be the case if nature took her normal course. In this instance, although I was aware of the Leamington band Man Made Moon & knew that people such as BBC Introducing & HillzFM's Paul Sanders rated them, they were not as visible on my radar as they ought to have been. This has now been partially put right & it is a pleasure to be able to review their 2018 Chicken Shed Records produced EP "The Tourist". Man Made Moon (who comprise Ben Taylor (vocals & rhythm guitar), Colin Bean (drums & percussion), Nick Mew (guitar), Ian Black (lead guitar) and Gary Ryan (bass)) came together in 2015 released their debut single ‘Lets Grow Old Together' on Valentine's Day 2016, and followed this up with ‘Not so Haunted' at Halloween 2016 (I think we might perceive a connection in the release dates!) both of which feature on this EP too.

I should also like to thank the band for offering us one of the tracks on the EP for a second volume of "Hot Music Live Presents": welcome aboard!

First up is the title track, a melodic, slightly world weary acoustic tune (the protagonist seems to be a "tourist" in the same semi-alienated way as that of the Gang of Four classic) with a slight Tom Petty vibe but with the sound also reminding me a little of Barenaked Ladies (both comparisons very much intended as compliments)

I have never heard such a deep bass part to an acoustic song which certainly adds distinction & I like how the arrangement grows throughout ending with a brass section, harmonica & vocal harmonies having joined the party

"Bones of Love" in distinction to its predecessor opens straightaway with a fuller arrangement & a more "electric" approach. In fact it sounds very little like the previous track, though I suppose there may be an underlying theme running through the whole EP of a form of existential "tourism": think Camus. If not intended, then it's a fine accidental theme.

 

"The Long Way Home" continues the existential musing switches back to acoustic troubadour mode while the bass prowls underneath. For some reason it evoked "Wish You Were Here" sort of Pink Floyd....

 

"Let's Grow Old Together" enters the sort of territory John Lennon explored later in his career as regards subject matter (though from the viewpoint of a younger narrator). One might imagine Neil Young singing it in one of his more tender moments.

 

"Not So Haunted" doubles back to a more electrified approach & features the most prominent use of the drumkit on the EP and shows how the band can rock out as part of their repertoire: in terms of "Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two"'s projected tracklisting, my personal feeling is that this track might represent Man Made Moon rather nicely.

 

All five songs catch the imagination on a first listen & demonstrate imagination & freshness in terms of writing ability. I admit to not having caught them live yet (my loss: I seemed to have missed them at events such as Leamington Peace Festival, Napton Festival and Warwick Beer Festival) and that's something I look forward to putting right but on this evidence, they have the material to appeal to audiences. I gather that live appearances for 2019 are being planned as I write.

These five songs do offer a good portrait of a band with variety up their collective sleeve albeit with a good clear aural identity. However as regular readers will have read (too often?) in previous reviews of mine, I do appreciate artists with the confidence to leave space in their arrangements to let the songs breathe & to permit impact. Man Made Moon certainly demonstrate that on these songs & with so many members, it can't always be easy to leave instruments out.

The band are currently back in the recording studio recording their second EP  and I for one look forward to hearing that & reviewing it in 2019.

 


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