Moondrive presents an intriguing set of intricate soundscapes in their self-titled debut LP.
Moondrive is Emanuele Cicerchia, a European singer-songwriter who has spent the last five years creating music in France and Italy. Cicerchia wrote, recorded, and produced his debut self-titled LP over a three-year period before releasing it in October 2017.
It’s obvious from the final product that Cicerchia used this gestation period to its fullest potential. Moondrive sounds remarkably full-bodied for the product of one artist working alone. The arrangements are rich and textured, masterfully molding an atmosphere that hangs over the whole record — a desired outcome for any great shoegaze/dream pop album. And this record indeed represents that style at its very best.
The majority of the tracks follow a traditional shoegaze formula of distorted guitars and synthesizers, with everything smothered in loads of reverb. Fortunately, the effects always seem tasteful, reaching appropriate levels without becoming overbearing.
Moondrive certainly draws inspiration from stalwarts of the genre. The wailing guitars (or synths or tape loops or whatever they may be) on the instrumental “Finders Keepers” emulates those on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, and Cicerchia’s vocal style and delivery rings similarly to that on Slowdive’s understated classic, Pygmalion. However, the record never feels weighed down by these influences, and it always has something new and exciting to offer.
Take the record’s third track “Particular” for example, which opens with a percussive arrangement that immediately sets it apart from the rest of the album. A piano kicks in to accentuate the floor toms, rim shots, and hand claps, which lay a foundation for Cicerchia’s woozy vocals. These lead into a string motif which morphs into a meandering synthesizer in the final third of the track. While this deviates dramatically from the record’s general style, it effectively carries on the mood nevertheless. The track contributes a mysterious, otherworldly tone by painting a crystalline picture of unusual sound pairings. While the production’s clarity is incredibly pronounced, the image it produces still doesn’t seem like it should exist because it is so unique.
Cicerchia’s exhilarating blend of styles reaches its climax in the album standout “Bear.” The track melds a wobbly synth line with ‘verby guitars in the opening before moving into crunchier textures about one minute into the track. Towards the middle, there’s a patch reminiscent of M83’s earlier work, and these synthesizers — which pack a delightful amount of low-end punch — carry the song on to its triumphant ending. This song puts Cicerchia’s vocals to use particularly well, with just the right amount of effects on them in the back half of the song.
The vocals are, in fact, really the only area of the record that could use improvement. The incredibly vague lyrics and somewhat loose vocal delivery can be excused because this is, after all, a shoegaze record. More often than not, the vocals are used like an instrument that further sets the mood of the record. However, sometimes the performances are noticeably rough, and rarely are they especially interesting upon closer inspection. While they certainly aren’t significantly detrimental to the record as a whole, it would have been nice for this layer of the album to be just as compelling as the others.
Overall, Moondrive’s self-titled is an outstanding debut. Cicerchia has managed to effectively craft a compelling collection of intriguing, intricate soundscapes. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and it demonstrates an incredible amount of skill in Cicerchia as a producer and songwriter. You absolutely should pay attention to Moondrive. If the band’s future output continues this strain of innovation, they will undoubtedly be an exciting act to follow.