Every so often, it feels like there’s a gem that unjustly slips under the collective radar. In this case, it could just be a JAFA perspective, a divide between islands that clouds my perception of what’s popular and what’s niche. Dunedin band Moon Monsoon may have released their self-titled EP in the tail end of May, but it’s never too late to make amends because it’s a worthy addition to the new wave of the “Dunedin Sound.”
With a relaxing soundbite of rainfall and rimshots crackling through the atmosphere, opener All I Want is the perfect thesis to Moon Monsoon’s dreamy alternative sound, taking cue from more jazzy inclinations while retaining pop structures. Harry Le Cheminant’s plaintive lead vocals always seem to glide over the mix, making his contemplative yearning and yelping all the more palpable. In fact, it’s the songs that take their time reaching crescendos that make the highlights - with The Bay, in particular, sustaining its octave-layered harmonies and off-beat bass drum kicks before crashing like a wave into the chorus. It’s evocative without overtly taking “surf” influence or hackneyed motifs, reminiscent of a beach trip in winter; bright, but with a chill lingering in the background.
The general vibe of the EP has a timeless quality to it... as if recorded in a pocket universe - and with Cheminant repeatedly proclaiming “No one can reach us / in the summertime” in the aptly named Reach Us, it’s a notion shared across pen and production alike.
The drawback to this is that it firmly cements the Moon Monsoon as a slice of comfort food; if you’re yearning for something a little more experimental, beyond simple soft-spoken truths and ever-popular reverb pedals, neither the band nor the EP is going to accommodate your tastes. The more uptempo cuts also don’t have as much punch to justify carrying them over the four-minute finish line - although, with lead guitarist James Battersby behind the mixing desk, it makes sense that an insular-sounding record would be insular on the technical end of things as well.
All the same, Moon Monsoon has carved out a neat little corner for themselves, crafting a delectable morsel of passionate indie rock. Time will tell whether they lean towards sharper, shorter hits or free-wheeling improvisation, but as long as we’re not late for that next step, we don’t mind either way.
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Released: 24 May 2019