Our Daily Bread 554: Liela Moss ‘Internal Working Model’/ Ghostwoods ‘My Neon’

January 20, 2023

Album Reviews by Graham Domain

Liela Moss ‘Internal Working Model’
(Bella Union)

This is the third solo album from the Duke Spirit vocalist and an excellent album it is! Whilst the first album My Name is Safe in Your Mouth was a diverse haunting set of wyrd folk songs, her latest album is a progression to electronic music – an album where the singer touches on facets of the dystopian present and near future! The atomisation of society – individuals becoming isolated, alone, helpless to assert themselves against the uncaring, all-powerful state above them – watching, controlling, neutering! The rich and powerful blatantly adopting their own ‘fuck-you’ autonomy while the pliant masses are moulded to comply! Protest steadily becoming outlawed! The NHS openly run into the ground so that it seems like a mercy when the jackal-like Health Insurance Companies take over, profiting from the misery! No one mentions back-handers or conflicts of interest while wealthy MP’s line their own pockets and laugh in the face of common decency, spitting on the downtrodden and shitting all over humanity! Welcome to the dystopian present and near future! The Earth burns and the Four Horsemen get out the barbie – grinning insanely like Rishi Sunak!

Of course, Liela Moss only touches on such concerns, her pop sensibilities still intact, she airs her fears in commercial song settings. The lyrics often abstract, more suggestive than linear, more about feelings and emotions, a cry in the darkness! The music reflects the unease in songs like ‘Empathy Files’ where ominous synthesisers and electronics texture a claustrophobic angst-ridden realisation that the State has ‘…got data for miles on You.’ But there is also inherent hope in the songs, a desire for change and a belief that human goodness will eventually overcome the bad things happening in the world. In ‘Come and Find Me’ she champions the need for people to reconnect with each other, empathise, form groups or networks of support as she sings, ‘Come and find me, I’m empathy…and I’m not on your phone!’

There are some great melodies and expressive vocal performances on the album. At times, she reminds me of Sarah Blasko at her most colourful and daring! ‘The Wall from the Floor’ sounds like a James Bond theme with its ethereal vocals and ‘Bad World’ refrain! ‘Ache in the Middle’ meanwhile has a melody that falls somewhere in-between Tears for Fears Mad World and Kate Bush the Sensual World! ‘New Day’ feels like a hymn to World Leaders for a better tomorrow – a call to feel empathy for others, concern and love for each other! If the overall feel of the electronic music is one of dystopia, alienation and oppression, the intent, the motivation is human – love and kindness as the antidote to isolation and inertia, feelings of helplessness transformed into positivity and action!

GHOSTWOODS  ‘My Neon’
(4000 Records)

This is the debut album from Brisbane Dark Jazz Collective Ghostwoods. Made up of six instrumental pieces it moves between oblique minimalism and experimental low-key film soundtrack. Cinematic in intent, but wonkily off-centre in execution, it nevertheless retains the interest of the listener with its elements of melody, intrigue and mystery!

First track ‘Dreamless’ is perhaps the weakest link. Minimal piano is latterly underpinned by deep synths and droning keyboard chords.

‘Terminal Bliss’ follows – distorted guitar giving way to deep bass and hypnotic drums with a reverb snare and a snake-like saxophone weaving between the beat – sounding not unlike Joy Division’s the Eternal crossed with Courtney Pine circa Journey to the Urge Within! Mesmeric!

One of the best tracks is ‘Saturnine’ which begins in a thunderstorm. Harpsichord, piano and arpeggio guitar soon breaking into a spooked Spy Theme (as played by Roedelius) before ending with the cold sound of rain!

In ‘Limina’ eerie voice-like synth waves flow across the music giving way to slow piano chords and droplets of synth, giving the piece a sad melancholic air! Beautiful in its bleakness!

Slow jazz brushed drums begin ‘Brighter Now.’ An air of mystery and tension hangs in the air as dramatic piano chords crash and a lonely clarinet plays as swathes of restrained guitar feedback fade in, bringing forth feelings of danger and foreboding. Music that perhaps could easily soundtrack the opening sequence of a ‘Harry Palmer’ cold-war spy film!

In ‘Terminus’ arpeggiated guitar chords sit atop low dissonance and clashing distortion before morphing into a kind of Ennio Morricone sci-fi spaghetti western theme with a slow tambourine pulse.

My Neon is a downbeat melancholic ‘imaginary’ soundtrack of sad beauty and simmering strangeness that stands its ground.

Key tracks: Brighter Now, Saturnine, Terminal Bliss.

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