Friday 3 April 2020

Moura - Eira (2020)

Country: Spain
Style: Progressive Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 1 Apr 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Wow, this is something special! It opens like a ritual, with the flickering flames of the fire, an ominous bass drum standing back and chanting voices waiting for the moment to get specific. A couple of minutes in, it becomes a proper song but an unusual one, not least because the lead vocals from Diego Veiga carry an interesting effect on them. We could have crossed the veil at that two minute mark from the ritual to conjure something up to, well, what they're trying to conjure up waiting patiently for its day.

Eira is like a psychedelic King Crimson, mixing psych and prog into a heady hallucinogenic mix. We're at once at a distance from it, listening to what's being played, and right in the middle of it because it echoes all around us, helped by swirling keyboards. It's very rhythmic but in unusual patterns, an abiding prog aspect to something that's a little more psych. It's also wild and free, again appropriate for what comes after the ritual but also not far at points from an immersive Hawkwind space rock jam.

In many ways, this swirling instrumentation continues on throughout the four tracks on offer. The bass runs like nobody's watching it. The guitars dance with the Hammond organ. The lead vocals command from behind an ethereal veil and we gradually realise that the effect may be choral, like a set of female voices mirroring the lead but just either side of it like an aura. But there is another focus here and that's Galician folk music.

Moura hail from the very northwest corner of Spain, in A Coruña, which is on the opposite side of the Golfo Ártabro from Pölisong in Ferrol. With Mileth just down the coast in Vigo, it's clear that the Galician rock scene is both in great shape and notably interesting. Mileth play pagan folk metal with a heavier approach, but both they and Moura sing in Galician, I presume, even if Google Translate struggles to tell me quite a lot. They also brought the folk group A Irmandade Ártabra on board, quite possibly throughout but with a real emphasis on the final track, Ronda das Mafarricas.

In Galician, Moura apparently means "it dies" and Google doesn't have a clue what Eira means. In Portuguese, it's "threshing floor" but then Moura means "Moorish", which I'm presuming isn't applicable here. Where Google trips up the most is in figuring out the instrumentation. Moura play commonplace rock instruments, adding harmonica, Hammond and twelve string guitar. A Irmandade Ártabra add all sorts of folk instruments, from tin whistle to accordion. I would love to know what some of the others are. Belém Tajes is credited for vocals and aturuxos, which Google tells me is "lucky people" in Galician and "turtles" in Portuguese. Miguel Vázquez plays three different instruments, each of which is apparently a tambourine. Pablo Reboiras plays the zanfona, which Google tells me is a zucchini but is really a hurdy-gurdy.

O Curioso Caso de Mademoiselle X is the longest song here but I don't think it justifies its fourteen minutes. Sure, it's the most patient song on offer and it gets agreeably epic late on when the Hammond organ echoes the dynamic guitar riff, but I'd say that this one's too long. It's a good patient trip on a couple of listens, perhaps the most progressive song on the album, but the other tracks only get deeper and this one doesn't as much for me.

If my favourite track isn't Eira, then it's Ronda das Mafarricas, which is a glorious folk rock romp. Written by Portuguese folk musician Zeca Afonso, it starts out with commanding vocals and Hammond swells, rocks out for a while in hallucinogenic fashion with folk instruments dancing beneath the grandeur of it all. Eventually it discovers pure folk territory, with the density of the sound transitioned from drones and echoes and guitars to an accumulation of instruments. We're getting ready to raise whatever it is we're raising.

While this runs under forty minutes, it'll occupy your entire day. It isn't like anything I've heard before, though King Crimson jamming with Hawkwind on the Cropredy stage isn't a bad image to start out. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to listen to this yet again.

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