Blood Moon is M. Craft’s twinkling desert island disc

Blood MoonDreamed up in the wildernesses of southern California, Blood Moon is a vivid account of M. Craft’s recent period of self-imposed isolation. His third album in 12 years elegantly captures the spectral loneliness of the famed Joshua Tree National Park, where Craft lived for several months in a cabin.

Developed from “unstructured piano experimentation”, the songs maintain their original spartan structure. At many times it feels as though Craft is simply doodling around with a piano, and happens to be accompanied by an orchestra of strings and twinkling percussion. The two elements meld smoothly together to create a distinctive and understated sound.

For the most part, the lyrics match this vibe perfectly, although there are occasions when Craft’s words exaggerate the repetitive nature of the music too much. “Afterglow” is one case where the fragmented lyrics feel so reductive as to be almost meaningless - an unfortunate impression which is exacerbated when they’re tied so closely to the cyclical melodies.

“Love is the Devil” treads this line carefully and more successfully. The strongest of the conventional songs on the album, “Love is the Devil” has an easy refrain of “Love is the Devil, the Devil is Love”. In another context, the song might feel trite or obvious. When taken as part of the broader album it feels powerfully organic.

It is, however, the purely orchestral tracks like “New Horizons” and “Midnight” which are most resonant. On previous albums, Craft has tended to create tighter, more traditional verse and chorus tracks but on Blood Moon these instrumental tracks often outshine their sung counterparts. Craft has said that the apparent quiet of the desert is far from a silence, describing the Mojave Desert as a place where “little flecks of sound, which would have gone unheard on a city street corner, become like splashes of neon. The rustle of wind in a smoke-tree, the hoot of an owl, the beating wings of a passing crow, all become vivid, important.” This subtle portrait is best realised when Craft steps away from the microphone, and let’s the orchestra come fully to the fore.

Context is integral to Blood Moon - this isn’t an album which suits being put on shuffle. While there isn’t a singular narrative or arc, the album convincingly captures the developing ambience of the desert. The sung tracks bolster and continue the instrumental ones, and vice versa. Craft often mixes in musical phrases which are steadily built upon, carried over and repeated between songs. By the end of the album, which finishes with the mystical “Love is All”, the numinous nature of the desert, and M. Craft’s place within it, has been beautifully recounted.

Release: 17th June 2016, Heavenly Recordings


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