Breathless

Blue Moon

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When Breathless unexpectedly but happily reemerged in the late '90s with Blue Moon, the quartet demonstrated clearly that they weren't planning on resting on their cult laurels. Having subtly experimented with changing sounds over time, on Blue Moon, Appleton and company explored, quite successfully, drone rock in the vein of Spacemen 3 or Loop, albeit in a less generally skull-crushing sense. Breathless didn't wholly abandon their trademark post-punk atmospherics, by any means, but incorporated this new approach to create a fine fusion. The slow opening notes to the album, the beginning of "Walk Down to the Water," captures this balance well, at once a lovely synth-based wash thanks to Appleton's keyboards and, especially when Martyn Watts' drums kick in, a good head-nodder. Appleton's vocals retain their strong, just dramatic enough timbre throughout Blue Moon, while his bandmates once again are a perfectly simpatico set of players for his often dreamy, passionate lyrics. Songs like "Viva," "Ballroom," and "All the Reasons Slide," with a striking series of chimed bells to its credit, definitely call up a shadowy sense of the moodier corners of 1969. The closing "No Answered Prayers" is especially strong, a slowly building ten-minute monster. When it comes to the soaring, sweeping rock that the band is known for, longtime fans need not worry -- "Magic Lamp" is easily the equal of such past high points as "Don't Just Disappear," at once a roaring monster and a romantic, passionate piece. Look out for the limited-edition two-disc version of the album if possible for the band's lengthy drone piece "Moonstone." Divided into two parts of nearly equal length over most of the course of an hour, it's a fine instrumental performance that neatly steers away from sounding like an expected drone/post-rock piece over its always slightly changing course.

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