There is a dimension to John Moulder that is always deeply contemplative. It is often overshadowed by raucous nature of his guitar-playing, while exploring an idea through its expression of particularly vivid chordal – or even – single-note lines and phrases. However if one penetrates the membrane of his melodies a profound nature emerges in his compositions. Often this is even deeply spiritual, as in his music on Trinity (Origin, 2006) and Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit (Origin, 2015), not to mention the more obvious ones such as Spirit Talk (Naim, 2011). This 2018 release, Decade: Memoirs is no exception; perhaps it goes a little further and deeper in an attempt to unlock that part of the mind that stores memory.
This is clear right from the outset, with songs such as “Memoirs by the Sea”, a petit suite that begins with by suggesting the roar of the sea that is eventually calmed by proverbial outstretched arms – and the return to equanimity by the guitarist himself who leads the ensemble into part 2 of the suite by returning from the froth and foam of the tumbling sea to a kid of ebb-like harmonic tide before the dénouement of the piece. Employing acoustic guitar and the infinitely more earthy tones of the nylon-string guitar, Mr Moulder reveals a more introspective state in “About Us” and “Remembrance”; even a slightly bleak and forlorn “Autumn” before dipping into his most contemplative music yet “African Sunset” before a more uplifting – even heraldic – “Gregory’s Hymn”.
Decade: Memoirs is also a more “composer-like” album. Here Mr Moulder almost completely eschews focus on his own virtuosity – although he possesses that in spades – as a guitarist choosing, instead on developing his musicianship in the context of ideation, harmonic conceptualisation, emotive and even the other more subliminal aspects of musicianship. The music explores texture and sensuality in a more visceral sense, for instance by pitting the elemental growl of bass clarinet of Tim Garland against the rippling glissandos and arpeggios of Gwilym Simcock’s piano, held together with ever-so-gently emphasised and an almost muted caressing pizzicato playing of the acoustic guitar.
The aching highs of Mr Garland’s soprano is often tempered by the gravitas of Steve Rodby’s contrabass while the space in between is filled with Mr Moulder’s plump, rolled notes accented by the subdued angular slashing of Paul Wertico’s cymbals (on “African Sunset”) and drums (elsewhere). Wherever necessary all of this is augmented ever-so-subtly by Ernie Adams’ percussion colouring. Throughout Mr Moulder continues to sculpt his long-limbed lines as he makes the black dots leap off the page and come alive, as if voiced in splendour with aria-like colour and dynamics on an album of music to die for…
Track list – 1: Memoirs by the Sea, Part 1; 2: Memoirs by the Sea, Part. 2; 3: One Last Call; 4: About Us (Introduction); 5: About Us; 6: Remembrance; 7: Retreat into Autumn; 8: African Sunset; 9: Gregory’s Hymn
Personnel – John Moulder: electric, acoustic and nylon-string guitars; Gwilym Simcock: piano; Tim Garland: soprano saxophone and bass clarinet; Steve Rodby: contrabass; Paul Wertico: drums; Ernie Adams: percussion
Released – 2018
Label – Origin Records (82762)
Runtime – 50:10