Album Review: Moonlover – Thou Shall Be Free

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Release Date: 2nd of March, 2018

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TL;DR: Thou Shall Be Free‘ demonstrates great musicianship and songwriting ability. The variation in styles and ambitious experimentation makes for great listenability.

‘Thou Shall Be Free‘ is the debut album from Moonlover, the project of psychedelic guru Quang Dinh, based in Melbourne, Australia. This record follows a few EPs released in 2015 and 2016 and a couple of singles released in late 2017. Also, a neat tidbit is that this album’s release coincides with March’s full moon – which is entirely intentional!

The record begins with the run of three singles released over the stretch of four months: Thou Shall Be Free, The Ooiee, and Queen of Sheba (this track was previously released in Moonlover’s most recent EP, but received a music video earlier this year). Meaning the remainder of the album is seven song of entirely new back-to-back material.

Thou Shall Be Free (video above) is a very spacey track inspired by the appearance of David Bowie in a dream. The numerous effects and instruments used within the track make for interesting stretches in the absence of vocals. Absence and presence of a number of instruments throughout really empower specific elements and lean towards a satisfying closure.

Next up, The Ooiee, supported by a fun music video (see below), is a really groovy track featuring some really strong bass lines and varying melodies. The lead instruments help to emphasise some nice intricacies placed throughout the song’s duration. Queen of Sheba (music video towards the bottom of the post) is a great demonstration of the use of small instrumental intricacies and effects.

Moving past the singles, we start to see a little more variation in the styles of music. Borderline has some garage feels with the consistent guitar strums and simplistic chord progressions, as well as some heavy pop vibes delivered with the vocals. Mindbender experiments with the addition of bells and much deeper tones and vocal delivery. The way the instruments compliment each other leading into the chorus is really well performed and a joy to listen to. Distortion in the guitar as it rips a solo towards the back end provides a new sound entirely without feeling out of place.

The second half of the record continues to provide different styles and vibes as Lazy Daisy begins with a poppy riff and nice rhythmic groove that just instantaneously fills you with good feelings. This song feels like a reflection on the past and the closure for an emotional chapter. The chorus is so beautiful with the ethereal backing vocal harmonies combined with the fantastic melodies. Overall, a seemingly simplistic yet very effective track. Admittedly, I played this one back to back a few times.

On The Day I Was Born features minimal instruments in comparison to other tracks, providing solid groundwork and thereby relying mostly on convicting vocal performances. Mekong Delta Blues is a mostly instrumental track featuring some spoken word (from Dinh’s father) and foreign sounding effects and melodies. Much like many of the tracks on the record, the combination of instruments really compliment and elevate each other in a strong fashion.

Wedding Day features a thematically fitting 6/8 time signature. The keys in unison with the gentle sung notes that help transition the song between different stages are gorgeous. Closing track, Moonlover, provides a feeling of unity and gives a similar spacey feeling to the album’s title track. A straightforward and smooth journey in order to close out the record.

Final Verdict

Thou Shall Be Free‘ demonstrates some amazing songwriting ability. The transitions between certain stages of the song are well executed; the experimentation with certain instruments, sounds and effects keeps things interesting and engaging. While there appears to be no direct connection between all of the songs, there is no doubting that Moonlover has pulled together an awesome collection of tracks. The production, mixing and mastering is great also. I am really pleased with this project!

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