Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Mobtown Moon - Mobtown Moon

There are few albums that hold the iconic status of Pink Floyd’s epic recording, Dark Side of the Moon. Released in 1973, the album marked a shift in direction for the British progressive rock band, combining a number of the ideas and concepts hinted on in earlier works into a cohesive and tremendously artistic package. Utilizing breakthrough recording methods and a pointed them that outlined issues of money, greed, and a slow spiral into madness, Dark Side of the Moon became a tent pole that rising artists measured themselves against, seeing it sell nearly 50 million records and trigger numbers of covers and tribute records as well from artists like Phish, The Flaming Lips, and more.

Baltimore-based outfit Mobtown Moon is the latest to venture into the wilderness of Dark Side of the Moon. Fueled by the city’s distinct creative vibe, Mobtown Moon is the vision of co-creators Sandy Asirvatham & Ellen Cherry who have essentially envisioned the album as a conceptual art piece, channeling a singer-forward template ahead surrounded by an eclectic musical palette that samples from jazz, hip hop, soul, choral music, chant, and, it goes without saying, rock.

Involving forty-one musicians, Mobtown Moon seeks to do more than recreate the record in a rote fashion. Instead, the collective draws from a rich diversity of genres, capturing the heartbeat and melody line while showcasing them in entirely new surroundings. Using live performances, digital loops, and sound effects, Mobtown Moon is purely successful in crafting a vision of Dark Side of the Moon not yet heard before.

Things kick off with the ambient flow of “The City Speaks,” random noises, static, and more setting the table with an anxious opening while segueing into “Breathe (Chant Version).” It’s an unusual track, an almost barbershop feel with a rich bass vocal and more sounds of life that eventually open up into the rich and sultry jazz-improv of the more conventional “Breathe.” Smooth piano presses things forward, supported by tasty horn fills and accented by a stirring electric guitar solo, allowing the female vocal plenty of room to sway.

“On the Run” takes a wholly different approach, further recorded sounds of life and electric distortions opening up onto a madman’s banjo-driven bluegrass. It’s relentless and a bit unsettling; the slight swells of guitar and vocal making it even more so while “Time” draws from soul and rock ‘n’ roll, resonant organ undergirding the solid male vocal. “The Great Gig in the Sky” takes those elements and ups the ante, letting a string quartet open the proceedings before moving into more moody experimental territory helmed by Asirvatham’s unique vocal.

Cris Jacobs steps to the forefront on the hit track, “Money,” his Ray LaMontagne-esque vocals gritty and real against the jazz and blues-flavored backdrop which then smoothly blends into the hip-hop of “Dream/Counterfeit.” There’s a slam poetry vibe to the proceedings, with bright piano tones and riffing guitar fills that gives the lyric new life while “Us and Them” is sultry and beautiful, smooth jazz melting with Ellen Cherry’s warm vocals. Those jazz notes continue on “Any Colour You Like” as wandering saxophone and clarinet join with persistent percussion before opening up onto the soul and gospel infusion found on “Brain Damage.” Things come to a close with the collective’s eclectic take on “Eclipse,” choral tones and funk grooves holding sway and leading to an abrupt conclusion.

Dark Side of the Moon has always been one of those pivotal albums that separate music lovers. While most applaud Pink Floyd’s artistic achievements and experimental progressions, there have always been those that, well, just didn’t get it. Mobtown Moon’s cover of this great record will no doubt have it’s detractors as well, those that don’t “get it” but for those with an open listening palette, what this musical collective has achieved here is rather intriguing. It’s a record that both stands in testament to the greatness of Pink Floyd as well as pointing to the keen talent of the rising generation; a win-win all around.


  1. Andrew--Mobtown Moon coproducer Sandy Asirvatham here. Thanks so much for this thorough, thoughtful review of our project. Deeply appreciated!

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  3. Hear, HEAR! I had the good fortune of attending the performance at Goucher and couldn't agree more with your review, especially your closing argument. This is a masterpiece that cannot be appreciated in a handful of playings. Like the original, you must simply wear the grooves out to appreciate the genius. @ Sandy and ellen - it would be a crime not to produce another live show....please!!!!