Release Date: Jun 17, 2016
Record label: Heavenly
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Pop
What is it about log cabins and pop? Ever since Bon Iver came along in 2007 with For Emma, Forever Ago, hordes of musicians have retreated to wood-based solitary confinement in the hope of similar inspiration. Martin Craft’s third album – and his first solo outing since 2009’s Arrows at the Sun – is the latest to take this tack: he ended up ensconced on the edge of the Mojave desert, surrounded by “otherworldly silence”, while he made Blood Moon. Said environment has been fully absorbed here.
On his third solo album and first in eight years, singer/songwriter M. Craft makes a strong case for the designations singer/composer and wilderness-conjurer. The Australia native relocated to Los Angeles from a decade-long stay in London, England to begin work on the record, eventually retreating to a desert cabin in Joshua Tree. Once there, he sculpted atmospheric, orchestral song from longer piano compositions conceived in L.A.
Like Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, singer-songwriter M Craft’s third album was made in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. It’s this, perhaps, that gives the songs their ghostly quality, whether it’s the hushed, cosmic folk of Afterglow or the twinkling opener, New Horizons, on which all the instruments slowly come to life. Throughout, the Australian is a calming presence, contemplating love while staring at the stars, his voice evoking Sufjan Stevens circa Seven Swans.
Music made with ghosts haunting songwriters in isolation continues to take form in magical ways. O.K. Computer and For Emma, Forever Ago embody the indie rock version of the Vincent Van Gogh suffering artist archetype. In Radiohead folklore, the band made the album 40 miles away from any known population source with nothing more than electricity and a landline.
Learning that an album started life as “a series of unstructured, experimental piano pieces” could strike fear into the heart, but in the skilled hands of Martin Craft those improvisations have been shaped into a series of well-ordered songs. Inspired by the noisy silence of the Mojave desert and its all-enveloping starscapes, the 10 tracks on Blood Moon aim to capture Craft’s responses to his (temporarily) solitary lifestyle. There is certainly a natural grandeur to the material, even if some of the subject matter – Chemical Trails, for example – is wrought by human hand.