Thank You From the Future is the very enjoyable second album from the Seattle-based quintet, Moon Letters. It is a fascinating amalgam of retro prog and rock influences with symphonic, jazz, blues and psychedelic echoes, but all mixed together in quite a unique and modern style – constantly changing musical themes, time signatures, tempo and mood. They succeed in creating a roller-coaster of a musical ride that acknowledges the influences of the like of Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson and Genesis, all stirred together in a refreshingly quirky, busy and progressive manner. Add sci-fi lyrics and a propensity to musically never stand still for too long within each of the seven tracks, and it will both challenge and engage the listener in equal measure.
Moon Letters were formed in 2016 by guitarist Dave Webb (Spacebag, Wah Wah Exit Wound), lead vocalist and flautist Michael Trew (Autumn Electric), drummer Kelly Mynes (Panther Attack!, Bone Cave Ballet), bassist Mike Murphy (Authentic Luxury) and keyboardist John Allday (Chaos and Cosmos). Their impressive 2019 debut album Until They Feel the Sun was well-received and garnered positive reviews in the prog and rock press internationally. However, I really feel they have raised the bar noticeably with a more diverse approach, and lyrics exploring personal growth, the future of the world and sci-fi imaginations of the early space age.
Michael commented: “We felt like we got a great sense of a band feel on this record. Songs were brought in from all sides and a fair amount of co-writing happened. Unlike the debut album, there is no over-riding concept, although tracks two to four make up a three-song suite called The Astral Projectionist, with lyrics inspired by C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy. Tracks one and six are more personal stories, with themes of coming of age, cult of personality and apocalypse, whilst tracks five and seven touch more on the present and future plight of humans.”
The individual tracks, and the album as a whole, flows and undulates in a ‘stream of consciousness’ way, and listeners will enjoy recognising the knowingly sign-posted prog and rock influences here and there. The band clearly enjoy bringing these to the table, but the way they are shaped and moulded together is surprisingly original.
Sudden Sun opens the album in a spirited way, with stabs of electric guitar from Dave and John’s retro-keyboards over a frantic and ever-changing bass and drum-led rhythm from Mike and Kelly. Michael’s dreamy vocals at times float over driving Rush-like musical patterns (a la Cygnus X-1) and there is even a touch of Van Halen Panama guitar at times – with jazz hints as well – amongst the musical exuberance and emotional lyrics:
Captured words, an angry sky
A bolt of lightning from your eyes
To come alive
There is life inside
A sudden sun is burning my eyes”
The Hrossa begins The Astral Projectionist suite with a more spacious feel allowing Dave’s guitar to soar over a softer, keyboard-led backdrop, as Michael’s vocal warning to the seal-like creatures of the planet ‘Malacandra’ from a human perspective. It steadily builds into a jaunty rock-orientated track with some powerful riffing and effective harmonies. There is a gentle interlude before a hauntingly epic crescendo. Mother River has a touch of dreamy Robin Trower/Jimi Hendrix blues guitar to start, before lush synthesisers and organ propel the track into early Yes-like symphonic prog with bass patterns and urgent drum bursts. Isolation and Foreboding ends the suite with a dynamic, shifting King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Porcupine Tree character over spacey synthesisers, free-flowing guitar and dancing bass guitar. There are even some slower, pastoral moments amongst the spiky rhythmic patterns, sci-fi lyrics and a lovely, flowing proggy denouement.
Children of Tomorrow has a real retro-prog and psychedelic feel, with a touch of Moody Blues at times. Again, there is impressive ensemble interplay and acoustic guitar from Michael before Dave’s electric guitar takes flight over some rich keyboard passages.
There’s nothing to return to anymore”
Fate of the Alacorn has a dreamier character initially and Michael’s vocals have quite an emotional range to them, which is further expressed as the track pushes on and gains a melodic and riff-led pace. It adds a grandiose tone towards the end, with the busy drumming and dark bass constantly keeping the track alive. Keyboards and guitar pyrotechnics and an orchestral march produces quite a power proggy finale. The lyrics hint at a unicorn mythology – a sort of metaphor for innocence or a childhood belief.
The final track, Yesterday is Gone, lyrically gives a melancholic warning of man’s future and a sense of loss, and instrumentally provides all the band with another opportunity to merge and mingle a range of musical ideas and flourishes, with recurring themes and the smoothly delivered vocals juxtaposed against the complexity of the music, with a final touch of electric guitar hanging at the end.
But they’re not mine to give anymore
Fleeting is life, trapped in the ice
Crisply produced in Seattle by Robert Cheek (of Band of Horses), with evocative artwork by Mariano Peccinetti, entitled Visiting of the Children, Thank You From the Future is an intriguing and vibrant mix of retro symphonic prog with traditional rock and psychedelia, framed within a fresh, original and dynamic structure – which is both comforting and melodic, yet at the same time challenging, complex and intricate. Available digitally, via Bandcamp, the album is definitely worth checking out, as it could prove a pleasant surprise for many.
1. Sudden Sun (4:19)
The Astra Projectionist:
– 2. The Hrossa (6:18)
– 3. Mother River (4:32)
– 4. Isolation and Foreboding (6:33)
5. Child of Tomorrow (5:27)
6. Fate of the Alacorn (7:06)
7. Yesterday is Gone (6:47)
Total Time – 41:02
John Allday – Electric Piano, Organ, Synthesisers, Virtual Orchestra, Vocals, Mercurial Chant
Mike Murphy – Electric Fretted & Fretless Bass, Vocals, Percussion, Earthen Grumble
Kelly Mynes – Drums, Percussion
Michael Trew – Vocals, Flute, 12-string Electric Guitar (track 5)
Dave Webb – Electric Guitars, Metal Toolbox, Shovel, Primordial Grunts
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 8th August 2022