The world could certainly stand to be less divided these days — and that’s not (just) a reflection on political views. Through all the changes to the accessibility of music and musicians that have come about as a result of streaming and social media, one would think that the actual music at hand might see more of a natural trend toward blending together and that musicians and songwriters would feel free to embrace doing so without feeling the need for a disclaimer of overt stylistic distinction. While this might seem to be the case already for many kinds of music, those artists who come to the table with classical training and musical exposure don’t necessarily have the liberty of simply putting their instrument or their repertoire of influence out there amid more mainstream styles of sound, without first raising a big neon sign that says, “PLEASE NOTE: CLASSICALLY TRAINED MUSICIAN WITH CLASSICALLY INFLUENCED MUSIC UP AHEAD. PLAN ACCORDINGLY.”
Seattle, WA musician and songwriter, Jeremiah Moon doesn’t shy away from putting his classical training at the forefront of who he is as an artist. However, the sonic character of Moon’s music doesn’t look to bombard listeners with a cascade of classical cello snippets, piled on top of a faint sense of pop song structure and some visually interesting cover art. Moon’s music is written in such a way that its stylistic lines are fluid and blurry. One cannot partition out where the classical training begins and ends the way a guitar solo sits within the confines of a rock song bridge. Moon isn’t a writer on a musical bait-and-switch mission — a reality that’s very easy to understand after hearing his single, “Melusine.”
One of the tracks of Moon’s recently released debut EP Sputnik, the official lyric video for “Melusine” was released at the end of last week. Right from the beginning, two bars of calmly syncopated, gentle pizzicato of low, subtly woody sounding notes Moon’s cello introduce the four minute track and demonstrate right away how the sophistication of the cello can be front and center, without creating an immediately traditionalist atmosphere. By the time one might believe they’re in for a four minute classical escapade, Moon’s vocals have already kicked in and his vocal timbre contrasts with the delicate flow of his instrument with such difference that it can snap one to attention. There’s the slightest touch of shakiness in Moon’s voice — though not from any kind of inadequate performance; it sounds more like an inherent quality — that evokes thoughts of AJJ’s Sean Bonnette. This little aural association alone, ushers in thoughts of early 2000s indie folk and lo-fi singer songwriter more than not. And from there, any uncertainty about what kind of music “Melusine” might offer, only lessens and becomes more of an intriguing adventure than an bout of reticent reception. The overall mix of the song keeps Moon’s voice at the forefront and left with a relatively dry and natural tone — sounding as though his part is being played out of a small closet. While this stylistic choice leaves the most plainly delivered part of the music in the most noticeable position, it’s almost as if the instrumentation underneath is given free reign to insert more tonal character, which it does in spades.
Layers of quietly droning, bowed notes and a cyclical pizzicato motif are eventually melded with a synthesizer part so low that it hinges on a growl-like tone, as well as a piano melody that bears a rather loose timbre. The notes sound far away, like a well-loved upright recorded at a distance but in addition to that, the pitches themselves are allowed to expand and retain a softened, uneven edge of decay, similar to the visual of a raindrop splattering on a window: the edges are visible but not the crispest. This unusual combination of instruments, sounds, and tonal shapes is unveiled rather early in the “Melusine” and the music only comes more unusual from there, as an other worldly sliding synth tone — similar to a theremin but smoother in its pitch quality — plays a minor key oriented part to complement Moon’s repeatedly descending vocal melody. After all of the song’s elements are introduced, they are able to sing out more as the music goes on, with the track’s apex arriving at the instrumental interlude. Moon and his cello shine here and after listening to Moon’s imagery laden tale of himself and another amidst a somewhat mysterious, lakeside setting at nightfall, the silken warmth of the cello’s notes is but a natural fit for the moment.
Hold my tongue til moonrise surprises the surface
Maybe I held it too long
Echo lake, I’ll take any part of a purpose
Hide your poison inside of a song
— Lyrics from “Melusine”
There’s absolutely nothing about the prioritized presence of Moon’s cello that feels shoehorned into the song’s arrangement — especially when one considers that the titular term, “Melusine,” is the name for a figure from European folklore. The figure of Melusine is often depicted as a partial fish creature or water spirit and is found in stories with other mythical beings. This thematic element ties together the composition and production related decisions made for this song, as the overall track projects an essence of unassuming and unexpected but fantastical qualities, much like the simultaneously real but magical settings of Melusine’s folkloric history. By the time the song approaches its admittedly strange lyrical ending (“God bless your skinny arms”), what Moon has presented isn’t a work meant for stylistic dissection but rather, a song crafted with applaudable sonic instinct. The last note doesn’t leave one wondering where to slot Jeremiah Moon in their musical racks but rather, what unique place and time this vivid storyteller will take his listeners to next.
Keep up with Jeremiah Moon through his official website and these social media platforms: