Depending on who you ask, ambient/moody music belongs exclusively in the background for film and television productions as it’s too boring otherwise. It’s all too easy to sound a little generic, bland, or melodramatic with this style, but Moon and Bike have succeeded in carving out their own niche and delivering something memorable and genuine.
The group is made up of two long-time musicians and friends from Oregon, and their approach eschews vocals in favour of acoustic and electric guitars. Within those limits, the duo tap into their core musical sensibilities to create noteworthy, catchy flows that sometimes have a shoegazey feel in the vein of Cocteau Twins.
The overarching feel is daydream-like, full of tender and wistful tones. Clever interplay between electric and acoustic forces demonstrates the duo’s ability to listen and understand each other’s playing—not just get sucked into their own world as a player, an all-too-common trap. The counterbalance is conversational and a careful trade of ideas; repetitive themes and the cyclical nature of the pieces foster hypnotic trances that become ever more ethereal the more you become absorbed.
‘River’ features seductive rhythms and nimble finger work while the two guitars dance around one another, and ‘Nearer Sky’ builds on this approach with a more theatrical and yearning sound that incrementally grows and grows. A more invigorated and muscly performance can be found on the cinematic, ‘Roads’, with a chunkier, delay-soaked electric guitar driving the sound. It almost sounds like an interlude piece for a David Lynch film.
Melancholic longings pour through ‘Solitude’, but the true highlight of the release is ‘Native’. The skill and musicianship on offer are among their best, and it’s couched against a delicately arranged and well-executed piece of writing. Teetering towards the close of the album are some meditative and celestial pieces called ‘Stars’ and ‘Voyager’, both of which have romantic and dreamy qualities that soothe and satisfy as a tie-off.
It’s not easy to compose an entire album based around a pair of guitars but Moon and Bike have succeeded where most would fail. Even if the style was wearing on a listener after a while, you can’t fault their compositional abilities or musicianship. A future release that expands ground with more instruments would be interesting to see given their ability to tastefully hold back and release when necessary.