Somnambule - Writing About Music

Random Touch ~ Hammering On Moonlight

Hammering On Moonlight begins tentatively, as though it’s necessary to get a sense of the territory and ascertain whether it’s safe to traverse. An outline is gradually delineated: a rhythm brushed out, a bassline pulses, and a distorted voice begins to sing. As it does so it attracts the floating particles of the music together as if by gravitational force, said force is however unstable and threatens at any moment to destroy the elements it initially cohered. The voice is like an evil spirit swirling around the girl it sings about.

The cover painting by James Barsness is like a melding of Breughel and Dali looking down on contemporary suburbia. And when night falls on the suburbs? The picture on the rear of the booklet shows a clouded moon shining over a suburban house with a single lighted window: two forms of light - one manmade and rational, the other magical and mysterious. The moon recurs elsewhere: two figures encircle a moon with too-long arms, another image reveals the moon lowering over figures crouched in a field. Moonlight seems to shine down on this album: pale, luminous, chilling.

Wall To Wall Shadows comes on spooked, recounting a singular story of a plan to suicide bomb a water tower in Carpentersville. The Deepness of Things sounds a single note of apprehension, waiting for the inevitable. The appearance of another troubled voice does nothing to soothe.

There’s a strong feeling of stasis, of suspension throughout. The percussion is colourful, accented, detailed. The bass constantly creeps, paces, stalks. The keyboards at times recall the anti-playing of Brian Eno’s Pierre in Mist, at other times they hang over proceedings like a haunting spectre.

Jung is quoted on the back cover: “The creation of something is not accompanied by the intellect but by the instinct acting from inner necessity.” This music might be a new soundtrack for Jeffrey Beaumont – aroused and horrified - as he spies on Dorothy Vallens’ humiliation in Blue Velvet. Or the moment in the first Blair Witch before the screaming starts. Hammering On Moonlight inhabits a soundworld constructed out of unease, haunted by uncertainty as to where things begin and end, alive to the possibility of possession.
Colin Buttimer
July 2003
Published by the BBC