The Moon landing of July 19, 1969 recently it’s 50th anniversary of the momentous occasion and aside from all things lunar related, on a musical note several events celebrated this milestone. The English magazine “Electronic Sound” devoted an issue and 7″ to it, The London Contemporary Orchestra performed Clint Mansell’s score to the Duncan Jones film “Moon” live, Spotify did a “moon titled” playlist and Italian artist Olivia Belli released the “Four Moons” ep. This particular release crept up on me. I had it in my playlist for a little while, but didn’t check it out until I was listening to the playlist purely as a soundtrack to life, rather than focusing on a release to review. I am finding out that removing this “I have to listen to the music because I am going to review it” notion when it replaced with just listening without any intent or agenda reveals some real beauties in the playlist. Belli first came across my radar with “Where Night Never Comes” a sixteen track album from late 2018 on LP/CD/Digital which was followed by the Digital only EP “Where Night Never Comes (Remixes)” and the Digital Ep “Daguerréotypes”.
“The “First Man on the Moon” was one of the most important event of the past century; people from all around the world joined together to assist at it without taking care of their cultural, political, religion differences. Quoting Neil Armstrong’s words “one giant leap for mankind” it was able to connect people from all around the world and to exceed the space limit connecting Earth to Moon.” With this EP Olivia Belli celebrates the Moon -this mysterious “Lady” that keeps watch on us every night- in the four moon phases: waxing, full, waning and moonless. The warm mood of piano and strings is mixed with space sounds and space radio transmissions (from NASA free audio files) to create a balanced contrast between modern technology and inspirational state.“
Over the course of the four tracks: “Waxing Moon”, “Full Moon”, “Waning Moon” and “Moonless” Belli stakes a claim as a composer who via the medium of music is able to take the listener and sweep them off their feet with music that is captivating and can come across as effortless, but in reality be so well thought through that it feels so easy. It is only when you listen deeply that you pick up subtle nuances such as the strings that sweep and flow, but never feel overwrought or the electronics that offer a delightful ambience to the pieces. For a pianist, the control that she shows in not making it such a Modern Classical oriented release, results in the success of the EP as it offers so much more than just one particular sound or style. The result is tracks that sound like their were commissioned as a film score. Belli weaves in field recordings, glassy piano or synth lines, string drones that provide colour and texture, while the pace of the pieces are slow and gentle. There is a somewhat nostalgic feel to the music as if they are the soundtrack to some old documentary you saw at your primary school on a film projector.
There is little moodiness that creeps in on “Waning Moon” and “Moonless” with the opening of “Waning Moon” (which refers to the right side of the moon being illuminated and the left in darkness) being a little fraught with emotion, as if something perilous is happening (which if it is related to the moon landing, could it possibly be the astronauts preparing to return to earth?) and you never know exactly what is happening as you watch with baited breath. “Moonless” is the most ambient oriented of the four pieces and it feels like a lot has been held back. The music is almost peering around corners with it’s pensive and almost melancholic touches that gradually become more pronounced as the piece moves forward. There is a feeling in the strings, possibly a certain weight to them that gives them an edge that comes across as a bit anxious. With a title such as “Moonless” it gives you the impression of leaving the moon and the distance that is felt in the piece as the music slowly grows and then retreats, is a symbol for both the distance traveled, but also the loneliness of the journey.
The order and title of the pieces on the EP are no coincidence. They refer to the cycle of the moon from becoming fully illuminated to changing to being almost not there, appearing smaller before becoming new again. The pieces match this with their intensity and tone increasing as the moon phases change with the first illuminated “new moon” being more gentle pieces of music, while the darker “waning” pieces naturally reflecting this change in our ability to see the moon. Interestingly in spiritual terms, the waning moon gives reference to re-evaluation or change in ones life before the emergence of the new moon and thus the new person. It could be that Belli has tapped into this emotional purge that can occur in peoples lives, but it could also be a mixture of the significance of Apollo 11 and that Belli has used both as an inspiration and entwined them together to influence her pieces..Whether this actually happens to coincide with the changing of the moon I am not sure, but what it does show is how Belli has taken the concepts of the cycle and tied in nicely with music that resonates with their themes.
“Four Moons” is a delight to listen to and one that for myself will be more than a soundtrack or a celebration of the moon landing, it will act as a soundtrack to introspection and a reminder that next time I find myself evaluating things to check out what cycle the moon is in at that particular time. “Four Moons” is available digitally now.