Last Gang Records
Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde, the Toronto-located duo who are behind Moon King are long-time friends and musical collaborators who are deeply connected to the Canadian music scene, playing in or with bands/artists like Majical Cloudz, Grimes, Austra, and the now-defunct Spiral Beach. Daniel has toured with his brother Airicks project Doldrums and Daniel and Maddy recently finished up a tour with Alvvays. They are now offering up their own project, Moon King, and will be releasing debut album, Secret Life, on April 14th via Last Gang Records. While Secret Life is their first proper studio album, they have dropped two previous compilation albums, Obsession I and Obsession II, which cover the rest of their output.
On Secret Life, Daniel and Maddy take their electronic and punk influences and shape them into pop song frameworks. The pace is up-tempo, but the lyrics, or at least what can be heard of them, are downbeat. They make an effort to balance melodicism and dreaminess with noise and aggression, but the result leans heavily towards the noisier aspects of their sound. Most of the songs grind away with short, repetitive cycles of harshly distorted guitars, incessantly steady drum rhythms, and the occasional odd and too prominent electronic percussion. Daniel and Maddy get the balance right late in the album of nine songs. Track #6, Threads is a keeper that shines with Maddys sweet, babydoll-breathy vocals that are mirrored by brightly twinkling reverb guitar notes. Her floating, drawn out vocals are pitted against a fast-shaken, rhythmic beat and ominous lyrics about houses that are burning and children being inside
Lead single Apocalypse is a fitting example of the Moon King sonic template and an explanation of how it first entices and then exhausts the ears. The song starts off at a quick pace with a simple guitar motif, tambourine jingle percussion, and a tapped beat. Daniel sing-talks in a tone reminiscent of Billy Corgan, slightly high in pitch, stretching upwards, a bit nasal, but lighter and less whiny than Billys vocals. Its difficult to catch the gist of the lyrics, but I fall to pieces can be discerned. A second guitar line with an edge of distortion comes in, brightening Daniels slowly exclaimed vocals. The light thump of a drum is introduced right before the song busts wide open with vividly buzzed-up distorted guitar burn and an emphatically rapid pace. Daniel exclaims even more markedly against the propulsive tempo and odd, upbeat, globular pocking notes. The fast pace is constant and tiring, the short instrumental refrain is too repetitive, and the whole song hinges only on its exhilarating, driving rhythm. Daniels lyrics cant be heard clearly, so theres no added meaning given to the song and the sounds found within seem to be a recycling of what was displayed on the album-opening track Roswell
The title track Secret Life is a highlight of the album and sonic gleams of Cocteau Twins and latter-day My Bloody Valentine perk it up as a dreamy Maddy drifts through her words in a hushed tone, wishing Im still invisible and admitting I was so bad for you. She reminisces over her secret life (Remember the time / your hand in mine ), but again, the lyrics are hard to make out and that diminishes the impact of the song. The beat is hyper-agitated and echoed, like a sped-up trip-hop rhythm, and quickly-picked, sharply radiant guitar notes (or is it some type of harp?) and cymbal ticks and shimmer lift up the atmospherics.
At the beginning of Impossible, Maddy sings airily amid a flat-clacked beat and minor chord guitar strum, then pushes out her words on the chorus as she proclaims Theres no one there / I wait for you / The choice is yours / I wont choose loneliness Daniel inconspicuously shadows Maddys vocal lines and subtle, delicate piano notes are added to the mix. The same stormy, distorted guitar sound found on Apocalypse is exhibited here and it drops in like a swarm of angry bees mid-way through the number. And again, the relentless pace doesnt let up and leave any room to breathe aurally. Following Apocalypses pattern, Come Back starts off at a moderate clip of fast-strummed guitar, wavering, sustained synth notes, and hushed, breathy vocals from Maddy (backed tightly by Daniels voice), and then breaks out with a speedy, and annoying, tocking sound, super-quick ticking beat, and deep grind of distorted guitar. Maddys vocals push out on the chorus once more as she declares we cant stay apart from each other and Dont wait / I might choose / might choose too much of you. Dreaminess is drowned under repetitive guitar refrains on the loud and noisy Hexe, while Medicine brings in some of the warped weave of My Bloody Valentine as Daniel sing-talks in a softer, but indecipherable vocal tone that Its a strange thing / how Im mystified (By what?!!). Again, the songs pace is constant and the guitar motif is repetitive – continual threads that run through the entire album.