Band: Moura | Album: Moura | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock, Galician folk | Year: 2020
From: A Coruña, Spain | Label: Spinda Records
For fans of: Pink Floyd (pre-1973), Magma, Van der Graaf Generator
Near the end of last year, I reviewed the debut album of the band Híbrido. In that review, I praised the label Spinda Records for giving underground prog and psych in Spain a platform. Not long after I published that review, someone from the label reached out and told me to keep my eyes on Moura, a band from Galicia.
Moura’s self-titled debut record is a tour de force of psychedelic progressive rock. This quintet blends the dark psychedelia of Pink Floyd (c. 1968-1970), the compositional and instrumental complexity of acts like Yes and Van der Graaf Generator, and the native, Celtic folk of their native Galicia. This confluence is then draped in a druidic, occult atmosphere that in turn creates a menacing aura. (Galicia is a region in northwestern Spain which historically was populated by Celtic peoples and today retains significant Celtic influence in the local culture, particularly the music.)
That Celtic influence is immediately noticeable in the opening moments of “Eira”. A hand-drum pounds out a simple rhythm over a bagpipe-like drone. The acoustic guitar and chanting, wordless vocals give the feeling of some sort of black magic ritual. The song’s main riff then enters, a King Crimson-y, herky-jerky wall of fuzzed-out guitar and Hammond organ. As the verse gets going, vocalist Diego Veiga’s lines are drenched in reverb, and the twisting guitar lines launch this song into outer space.
“Da Interzona a Annexia” opens with a bang. The song is fully electric, but local influences are evident in both the guitar and organ parts. This song’s backbone flows more smoothly than that of “Eira”, and the mood is less portentous. Many parts of this song remind me of a slower, more minor-key Mezquita, as the extended instrumental sections draw heavily from Spanish music.
“O curioso caso de Mademoiselle X” is the longest song on the album, at nearly fourteen minutes. (As opposed to the paltry nine-minute runtimes of each of the first two songs.) This song opens gently, with acoustic guitars and light percussion. It gradually builds, though, with swelling organ, lurking fuzz guitar in the background, and insistent drums. It then shifts into a lumbering, lurching, doom metal-inspired riff, with heavily wah-wahed guitar squirming over the top. The verse shifts back to the acoustic theme seamlessly. The chorus is huge and ominous, and the restrained pace of the song only serves to amplify its intensity. This is a song where the bass, fuzzed out to the extreme, comes to the fore at moments, and the sheer power of it packs one hell of a wallop. Around the nine-minute mark, the song calms down a bit; squeaky synthesizers and a distant-sounding harmonica give the impression of floating through space, a sensation which is only reinforced by the skittering drums and quiet, echoing clean guitar.
Moura closes with my favorite song on the album, “Ronda das Mafarricas”. A relatively terse seven minutes, it opens with a murky organ and more reverb-laden vocals, driving home the piece’s occultic atmosphere. The opening 90 seconds feel like an invocation to open some sort of ritual. The rhythm is infectious once it gets moving, and the vocal and organ lines weave Celtic melodies with sinister, fuzzy psychedelia into an engrossing mélange. The soloing is inspired, bringing in jazz touches amid the other influences.
The four songs on Moura are all brilliant. Though it’s been out for only less than a week, this is already a potential runaway for my album the year, and I’d rank it on par with many of the prog classics of yore. Do not let yourself sleep on this record!