By Jason Shoff
Kristina Moore is a bit of a rarity. Well, at least when it comes to her music, anyway. Her last EP was released in early 2013, and she doesn’t really play out a whole lot. In fact, in the years that I’ve been involved in the scene, I’ve only seen her live about a handful of times. Yet every time I’ve seen her, her performances have always stood out with me, both with her unique Celtic folk-inspired music and her haunting voice, which for my money is one of the best in the entire local music scene. They also make me wish that she had a release that captured the essence of what I’ve heard live. So when she announced at her last show at Pub Rock (opening for Justin Moody and Christian Lee Hutson) that she was about ready to release a brand new album, I was incredibly excited. And thankfully for all of us, that album, Taxus baccata, has finally arrived.
Originally performing as Where Are All the Buffalo?, Moore decided to shed that name before its release and christened her new project (which also features Mariah Brown of Longbird and Gina Lacagnina) as Pageant.
However, a stronger, mightier Pageant recently decided to use their LLC powers to force a name change, and the band has just announced that they decided to rename themselves Foreign Language. Hopefully this unfortunate stumble out of the starting gate doesn’t confuse people or affect their upcoming promotional campaign for Taxus, as this album totally captures the sound and mood that I’ve come to know and love from Moore’s previous live performances.
Not only that, but this is by far one of the best produced local albums that I’ve heard this year. Every instrument and vocal can be heard crystal clearly, which is key for a band who creates such a luscious pallet of sound.
First song “Movement on a Beach” pretty much lays down the template for what follows. It starts with Moore gently strumming a medieval era-sounding melody on the mandolin before unleashing her absolutely gorgeous and unique vocals. Her range reminds me quite a bit of Bjork, especially her higher register, which really gives me chills at points. Then, an absolutely pristine layer of harmonies enters the picture, sounding like a howling wind on some songs and chanting monks on others, but always taking the songs to another level (and seriously, whoever recorded these deserves a gold star). Then, towards the end drums and organ will join the proceedings, bringing the song to a climax before the gentle comedown into the next track.
That’s not to say that every song sounds this way, though. The drums and organ are more prominently featured on second track “Under the Swell,” and “Ship in the Bottle” is much more upbeat, its production much more Wall of Sound-like. Things also get more baroque on the autoharp-driven “I Tried I Tried,” and “Musings of an Opportunist” even sounds like something out of an old school Disney animated film.
The tracks on Taxus baccata, however, do flow seamlessly together and create a consistently mellow (albeit gorgeous) mood. It’s almost like being picked up by gentle morning breeze, carried around and throughout a stunning medieval England landscape, and then slowly brought back down to Earth. In other words, this is music to turn on, lie down, close your eyes and lose yourself in.
Having said that, this isn’t necessarily music for everyone. If you’re looking for something that can get you going on the dance floor, or get your adrenaline pumping, then this won’t be your cup of tea. But if you’re a lover of music that’s ethereal, haunting and lush, then be prepared to be whisked away to the magical world that Moore and her fellow bandmates have created. It’s one you’ll want to stay awhile in.