Review: Moon Relay – Full Stop Etc.

HUBROLP3579Closure, but not. Full Stop Etc. is a great album title for a band who never succumb to the temptation of tidy conclusions, or the satisfaction of seamless musical cohesion. Instead, Moon Relay are full of zags and juts and jags: conflicting moods that clang into eachother at awkward angles, instruments grinding together in faltering syncopations, abrupt handbrake-cranks that ruin outstretches of krautrock rhythm, sending the landscape into a somersault. It’s nothing new to pull from an array of contrasting influences, but where most bands arrive at a mutual statement through a process of compromise, this record seems to capture a band amidst an argumentative negotiation phase. Ultimately the pieces are starting to come into alignment, although guitars are still stubbornly pulling away from the electronics, while crooked dissonances point to unresolved disputes between motorik bass riffs and the harmonies that whirl over the top. I can feel the members sending a hostile side-eye to an inappropriately jovial tambourine, or bubbling synthesisers trying to push the detuned strums back. All is not entirely well.

What makes Full Stop Etc. so compelling is how Moon Relay use duration itself as an act of self-sabotage. Several sections on this record threaten to veer off into 15 minutes of dead-end repetition and groove, yet the members always pull the plug just before the music starts to automate itself. “…,,\\y” comes particularly close – with a bass adopting a motorcycle hum and guitars glistening like dangled chandeliers, swinging in gentle sync with the rotary beat that drives from beneath – yet the piece stumbles to a close after four minutes. Even when the group give themselves 10 minutes to play with, as on the closing “…./__ (;;;”___”,,,) (”, the piece flits between nascent buds of techno pulse, rhythmic harsh noise, retro-Euro experimental rock and drum machine post-punk. Despite the rigid rhythmic consistency, Moon Relay are trapped in eternal unrest, electrified by the friction between their skirmishing musical ideologies, rendered urgent and fierce by their inability to reconcile. Also – who can really say they saw that final minute coming?