The music of the Moors (guitarist/electronic whiz Scott Dakota, and singer/flautist Sharynne nic Macha) transcends genre, blending gothic, ambient, rock, ethereal, Celtic traditional and tribal elements. The band describes their particular style as "goth-pagan-trance rock," but perhaps categorizing such a complex and engaging sound is not only difficult, but pointless. Suffice it to say that The Moors have a very loyal following in their native Boston, and the release of their long-awaited CD is a dream come true for those fans who live too far away to frequent the band's highly acclaimed live performances.
Nic Macha is descended from the Clan MacLeod in Scotland, and is a student and teacher of Celtic studies who leads classes and workshops on Celtic spirituality. Her interests and knowledge are colorfully reflected in the music of the Moors, from ancient ballads in Scots Gaelic set to pounding guitar rhythms, to invocations of the Horned God backed with animalistic riffs that would make Jimi Hendrix proud, to poetic recitations of blessings of the Goddess Brigid accompanied by dark, melodious harp strummings. A multi-lingual (Gaelic, French, Latin, Bulgarian and English), impressively erudite and absolutely beautiful collection of songs makes up this album, with the added bonus of artwork by award-winning painter Cynthia von Buhler, who also performs in the band Women of Sodom. With her husband Adam (who plays guitar with up-and-coming Boston band Splashdown), Cynthia produces CDs and musical events under the Castle von Buhler label, and together they have produced three compilation CDs whose profits go to benefit AIDS research. Cynthia's work on the paintings for CD packages involve creating art that reflects the spirit and mood of each songoften her paintings include natural objects such as frames made of pine cones or seashells, and some paintings have been displayed with fresh apples and live doves inserted into windows in the paintings.
Such evocative, unusual visuals are perfectly suited to the music of the Moors, which is dreamy and trance inducing as often as it is sensual and passionate. "The Snake that Coils Within, Without" conjures the image of Ourobouros, the snake that bites its own tail, symbol of Kundalini and Tantric sex: it is a tour de force of glossolalia and erotic, driving rhythm. "The Hunter/Cernunnos" is the horned god invocation that celebrates the most virile forest deity of all, and nic Macha's soaring vocals are an emotional, beatific tribute. The haunting "Belengaard" relates visions of past lives in European forests, and its lilting flute solo and lush polyphonic melodies are thrilling and unforgettable. The two traditional Scottish songs "Silver Whistle" (about the homecoming of Bonny Prince Charlie) and "Voice of Thunder" feature lyrics in Scots Gaelic, and both are very ethereal yet ritualistic-sounding pieces that effectively create an otherworldly mood. "Dea Noctu" which means "Goddess by Night" is a stunning Latin invocation of the goddess in her dark and mysterious aspect, with dramatic harmonies and a stark, rhythmic pulse. Each song on the album is so well crafted that it is difficult to pick a favorite or a highlight. But two very unique pieces are a Bulgarian chant sung in two-part throat-singing style by nic Macha, and the aforementioned Brigid invocation, which is recited in Gaelic and in English in a hushed, reverent voice with ancient-sounding harp in the background.
One of the most common forms of praise the Moors receive is the surprise registered when people realize "it's only two people??!!" The multi-layered guitar sounds and effects created by Dakota, and the haunting vocals and skilled woodwinds of nic Macha, often conjure the image of a much larger group of musicians, or at the very least a studio-driven concoction that cannot be recreated in a live setting. While nic Macha does her own gorgeous backing vocals on the CD and these, alas, cannot be duplicated live (although this never detracts from her artful stage performance), Dakota's elaborate creations upon his custom, fretless guitar depend upon a carefully orchestrated system of computerized sound loops and intricate maneuvering on his instrument. But dependent as the band is upon the modern wizardry of technology to create its rich sound, the ultimate effect of the music of the Moors is one which owes everything to the versatile talents and visions of its creators, and to the age-old dreams, stories, legends and magics that inspire them.
Reviewed by Peg Aloi
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