Originally published in Earshot Jazz December 2014
The geologic theme of Moraine extends to one of the major genre influencing its formation: progressive rock. The band’s leader, Dennis Rea, cites 1970’s bands King Crimson, Soft Machine, and Gentle Giant as the magma from which Moraine erupted.
Eight years ago, guitarist Dennis Rea started down the path to this recording as a duo with cello. More strings and percussion joined the journey. Eventually Rea collected the current line up of Alicia DeJoie (violin), James DeJoie (reeds, flute), Kevin Millard (stick bass), and Tom Zgonc (drums) and deposited them at Soundhouse recording studio in Ballard. Engineer Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden) piloted the vintage Trident 80B console. Rea set up the studio’s guitar amplifier in the bathroom, the same amp that Kurt Cobain used on his first record.
While the mix may sound just fine on computer speakers, the sonic depth, and detailed placement of enriched sounds deserve closer listening on headphones at high volume. Rea wanted to make this recording an enveloping experience like their live sound. Mission accomplished. The electric violin sounds sometime take on the character of an overblown blues harmonica. The signal processed baritone saxophone thrusts like a second distorted guitarist. The odd time signatures are deep in the pocket. The audio signals are blazing hot. The decays of each song’s last sound are handled with finesse.
“Mustardseed” by Daniel Barry grows from undistorted power chords on bass, though a slow anthem of rising notes in the saxophone and violin pushed by steady drumming, blooming into a chalkboard scratching guitar freakout.
“Skein” by Rea is a tangle of alternating seven and nine beat measures under solos traded between saxophone and violin. Check out the amplifier buzz in the fade out.
“Fountain of Euthanasia” by Alicia DeJoie honors Rea’s love of puns. Major chords bubble out of pools of distortion. I imagine this being staged with the hand of God reaching down through fifteen foot flames.
“Gnashville” by Rea turns Tennessee up to eleven. Remember the fiddle solo on “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by Charlie Daniels? Now crank it up and distort the hell out of it. You will only be scratching the surface of where this track goes.
“In That Distant Place” by Jon Davis is awash in reverb over a mellow seven and a half beat groove.
“Synecdoche” by James DeJoie starts as a five and a half beat figure and evolves into a four on the floor jam.
“The Earth is an Atom” by Alicia DeJoie glides along mostly in six beats and pans the baritone sax from left to right.
“Waylaid” by Rea is a seven beat rocker doubling a figure in the guitar and baritone saxophone over a steady pulse on a loosely closed high hat cymbal like Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” played by hipsters. Then a slow motion jet landing, bomb dropping, zero gravity space walk. We’re not in Kansas any more. I’m scared. I want my mommy.
“Spiritual Gatecrasher” pulls out the distortion pedals with a ten beat vamp under a flute melody. After a quick interlude, a flute and violin take modal solos over the closest the drums come to a jazz ride cymbal pattern.
“The Okanogan Lobe” closes the playlist with a lead guitar head banger. Fist pumps and moshing switch briefly to an off balance genteel waltz, then back to hammering grooves for the solos. All bow to the great spirits of feedback and distortion!
Moraine synthesizes progressive rock, grunge, and jazz with a uniquely Seattle slant. Check out the CD release concert 8:30 December 14 at Columbia City Theater (21+).
Visit https://moraineband.com/about to read more about Moraine.