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Mooch

The Pagan Year

Review by Gary Hill

Mooch’s latest CD is a concept album that delivers the pagan year as 8 tracks each corresponding to one of the 8 major festivals of the pagan calendar. As such it is essentially an endless circle. The music here seems to sit inside the common ground of space rock and more pure progressive rock. I’d have to say that, despite the fact that it’s still early in the year, this is likely to make my list of best albums of 2010. It is, without question the best album I’ve heard from Mooch – and it’s pretty much a masterpiece. There isn’t a song here that comes in less than fifteen minutes in length – and that’s bound to please the prog purists who are interested in the size of musical compositions.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Imbolc
This rises slowly and rather ambiently. It has a definite early Pink Floyd meets Hawkwind meets the jungle element to it. I hear bits of “Several Species of Small Furry Animals…” here. Before the minute and a half mark, though, an energetic keyboard riff rises up and we begin to move forward from there. As more layers of keys are laced over the top this reminds me quite a bit of Hawkwind. It grows through just the keys for quite some time and there are some parts that make me think a little of Rick Wakeman or Keith Emerson. Keys maintain this beast, growing gradually. At points I’m reminded of Vangelis or Tangerine Dream, but the space rock sounds are ever present, too. There is percussion on this instrumental (I believe it’s real, but it could be synthesized) but beyond that it’s a keyboard only party. Mind you, the liner notes say there are other instruments, but it sounds like all keyboards. After the fourteen minute mark (this piece weighs in at over seventeen) it drops down to territory similar to the sounds that started it and gradually descends to nothingness.

Spring Equinox
Another that starts rather tentatively and builds gradually, there is a lot of early Pink Floyd in this mix, but also some Hawkwind and Tangerine Dream. When the vocals join later the comparisons to both early Pink Floyd and Hawkwind are more apparent. There is a definite psychedelic tinge to this slow moving number. It’s almost hypnotic, too. There is some cool echoey guitar work later that reinforces the connections to both Floyd and Hawkwind. Beyond that point it drops to a cool keyboard dominated movement. It feels like there might be some backwards tracked stuff in this mix. I can hear Tangerine Dream here but also Hawkwind. It gets pretty space oriented for a while and then moves out into just percussion for a short time. Weird effects and other elements come in over the top and the comparisons to Hawkwind are obvious. Percussion seriously dominates this latter portion of the piece.
Beltane
More “rock-oriented” this feels perhaps more like a song. It has a lot of Hawkwind built into it – primarily Space Bandits era. Interestingly enough, though, there are sections here that call to mind classic Yes and Genesis, too. After a while, though, this drops way down for the vocals. I am still reminded of early Genesis – some of the more textural keyboard dominated stuff, but Pink Floyd also comes to mind. Bridget Wishart’s gentle vocals bring in more of that Hawkwind Space Bandits reference, though. There is a cool keyboard dominated instrumental section mid-track that makes me think of Yes at times, but Jeff Wayne’s version of War of the Worlds and Genesis at others. As this continues for a while I think of it almost like Rick Wakeman solo meets Hawkwind. It shifts beyond that, though, more towards ambient space music. It builds back up into a killer prog excursion from there and there are definitely elements of both classical and folk music built into the number. It is very organic in a lot of ways.
Summer Solstice
This killer instrumental is very much dominated by the keyboards. It has a lot of Hawkwind built into it, but we also get some definite Genesis in the mix. It moves through a number of changes and alterations as it continues and is really quite a ride. I also hear plenty of OSC in this mix as it’s some killer modern space rock. It’s got a lot of energy and is one of the highlights of the set. Of course, everything here is so good that it’s really not easy to pick a standout.
Disc 2
Lughnasadh

More of a hard rocker than we’ve heard, this is very crunch guitar oriented. It’s got plenty of Hawkwind and other space rock built into it. As this continues it takes on some fusion elements and the guitar really wanders around over the top quite a lot. I’d say that of everything here it’s probably my least favorite. Still, it’s a good piece of music. It just tends to be little less effective than some of the rest.

Autumnal Equinox
Another with some serious energy to it, this has more of a Hawkwind meets Genesis meets Yes feeling. It has a driving beat but lots of keyboards and keyboard like sounds weaving over the top. Guitar screams over the top of this later as noisier patterns emerge. Late in this track it gets vocals. The motif when those vocals comes in reminds me a lot Pink Floyd. There are some other elements over the top, but Floyd is a good reference. It gets a more pure psychedelic rock sound when the female vocals join. 
Samhain
This almost feels like it came in from the previous piece at first. It’s pretty and mellow and has quite a bit of a Yes-like texture to it. One of the more dynamic pieces on show, this works into a more rocking motif for a while and then classical and jazz elements are merged with space rock later. It works through a number of mellower movements and then eventually drops back to the vocal based movement that was the showcase of the early portions of the number. 
Yule
Slow moving and mellower, this track features some vocals that at times feel almost like chanting. It is melodic and pretty and while it has some elements close to Hawkwind, I’d consider it more like Yes or Renaissance. It’s a great way to bring us back around.
 
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