Sometimes the ambient and downtempo genres can slip under the radar. Outside of headliners such as Brian Eno and Boards of Canada, most artists quietly release a project; only truly appreciated when the listener has a mundane activity to do. MMOTHS, the stage name for Irish producer Jack Colleran, demands your attention (Hell, he even made it easier to search for his music, adding the ‘M’ in front, similar to the ‘V’ in CHVRCHES). His debut album, Luneworks, uses similar techniques to that of Tim Hecker and Jon Hopkins, warping atmospheric melodies with incoherent vocals. His previous EP’s (EP1 and Diaries) had a slight pop flavour to it, with each of the projects containing multiple features. They still contained an obvious atmospheric aesthetic, but not to the extent that this new project features.
From the opening track, it’s clear that Luneworks takes a more dramatic approach then Colleran’s previous efforts. “You” follows a slow melody, but the sounds screech with pain and grit. The noise can be quite overwhelming, but it glides perfectly into the first single – “Deu”. Incomprehensible female vocals flicker left to right in a swarm of noise, while a beat softly pads in the background. It’s certainly on the louder side of the album, but it never fails to soundtrack a scene. If anything, the hustle and bustle of the track makes you want to grab a pair of headphones and head out into the dark, nocturnal city streets.
This darkness takes precedent over all other themes in Luneworks – atmospheric lo-fi synths litter the album. Crackles, scrapes and drowning vocals; the world Colleran wants to embrace you in is noisy, dark and possibly raining. “Verbena” is possibly the noisiest of the album, throwing random sounds left, right and centre. It almost works, but doesn’t quite have the finesse of Colleran’s contemporaries. However, it still manages to keep the mood, allowing it to take hold. It’s perhaps a clear representation of MMOTHS, as a more beat driven and coherent Tim Hecker. Like Hecker, Luneworks is an album that might sit in your library, set aside only for specific occasions.
Unfortunately, there are some significant outliers in Luneworks, with “Eva” breaking the framework by adding actual lyrical singing. There isn’t anything particularly bad about the track, but in an album that is entirely lyric-less, it becomes a bit of a bump in the dark. When there is such an obvious emphasis of maintaining an idea, it’s a wonder this track was included. It still remains a bit incoherent; Colleran’s vocals mumble something along the lines of “You saw me once…and then you left me…” It certainly reinforces the idea that Luneworks is something to be listened to alone.
The back-half of the album remains largely beat-less (except for the odd little dance-flavoured track “1709”). Luneworks ditches the upbeat for a more reflective finish – and for the most part this is where the album shines. Between the organic thumping and noisy, scraping, ambience, there is a lot to revel in. “Naoko” (part one and two) give a beautiful finish and seem to tease at more to come. There’s even an expertly crafted bassy release – though its effect impressed more on a technical level than an artistic one.
Colleran delivered a finely tuned album for his first attempt. Considering he is still in his early twenties – there is clearly significant potential left untapped. MMOTHS as a project sways from beats to ambient, and that’s perhaps where it faults. Achieving an exceptional and innovative downtempo album is not an easy task and explains why there might be some jumbled ideas. Additionally, the multitude of short interludes rarely improve Luneworks drastically – coming off as unsure ideas. Despite its faults, Luneworks is ideal for long listening. Embrace the night, even if there are some twists and turns.
– J. Faull