Moon Zero: Tombs + Loss
Denovali Records

This double-CD set is about as complete a portrait of Tim Garratt's Moon Zero project as the London-based producer could possibly have hoped for at this early stage in its development. The first disc re-issues his debut EP Tombs (originally issued on cassette via FutureSequence) and pairs it with the follow-up Moon Zero EP Loss. For the record, the two CDs also have been made available as separate vinyl releases, as well as in a digital format. Adding to the discs' eight originals are four Tombs remixes courtesy of Sun Hammer, Zvuku, The Cyclist, and Bruised Skies.

The enigmatic character of Moon Zero's murky soundworld—its murk to some degree attributable to the fact that the music was composed and recorded entirely at St George in the East Church in London—is captured boldly on Tombs, which was recorded in October of 2012. Don't read too much into the choice of locale, by the way: Garratt's an atheist who selected the setting for both its sound potential and the feelings of solitude and sadness that come from being alone within such a huge space.

With Garratt using processed organ and laptop sounds to generate his Moon Zero material, “Dalyan” conjures the vision of a collapsing world, as the setting's blurry whorls of smothering noise seem to suck everything at close range into its vortex. The material could be classified as noise, but it's hardly noise of the ear-piercing variety (Merzbow one obvious reference point) but instead noise of a muted sort. And while it's not violent, it's hardly static as demonstrated by the convulsive sound masses that rush helter-skelter through the ten-minute piece. The intensity hardly abates in the pieces that follow: the inclusion of wordless voices in “Endless Palms” conveys the impression of anguished souls whose wail seems to emanate from some invisible realm, while the throbbing “Winter Dreams,” animated as it is by a cryptic, Berlioz-like theme, lurches and careens like some diseased behemoth.

Beefing up the release with four remixes on the release is a generous gesture, though admittedly it's a move that clouds the already cloudy Moon Zero waters by stretching it into even more shapes. Two of the remixers normalize the Moon Zero sound by adding beat structures to the material: whereas Sun Hammer's “Shadow Den” treatment doesn't alter Garratt's soundworld to such a degree that its identity is compromised, The Cyclist does, by recasting “Winter Dreams,” at least in part, as a house banger. The other two, however, stay true to the Moon Zero style, with Zvuku and Bruised Skies both offering up mournful takes (the latter's significantly less militant in spirit) of “Endless Palms.”

Recorded a year after Tombs, Loss was recorded in two days at the same locale, with Garratt this time using drawbar organ, bass synth, vocals, FX processors, and guitar pedals as sound generators. There's not a radical difference in sound between the two EPs, though the more recent one is marked by a stronger rhythmic presence and sense of propulsion. The organ-smeared universe of “Nosema Ceranae” flirts with volcanic psychedelia, its unearthly rumblings at every moment poised to combust, whereas the cyclonic activity captured in “Youth” could legitimately invite comparisons between Moon Zero and Tim Hecker. At EP's end, “The Industrial Sadness” grinds and howls for a truly nightmarish eight minutes. If anything, the newer material, while more aggressive overall in its attack (see the thunderous clangour of “Lara Witchcraft” as evidence), also sounds more assured, as if Garratt's acquired a clearer understanding of the project over time and brought it into clearer definition. Truth be told, the epic shudder that Moon Zero's material typically rises to isn't easy to shake.

June 2014