Moon & Pollution – The Box Borealis


Some people never give styles like shoegaze or electronica pop a chance. Contempt prior to investigation, in cases like that, always has much more to do with where a music fan is in their own lives rather than any sort of reliable commentary on musical merits. The commonly held belief for many, seemingly, is that these are genres are all about overwhelming listeners with sound rather than offering up musical narratives that make sense, literal or otherwise. Perhaps much of this is true. Top 40 pop is a traditional bastion for the lowest common denominator, but once you dive deeper than the surface of things, unheralded treasures await. Shoegaze and electronica pop are a big part of what is going on here, but there’s more. The debut album from Moon & Pollution, The Box Borealis, introduces less obvious strains into the mix. The crowning touch is the melodic and lyrical sophistication powering each piece. Given the chance, Moon & Pollution will impress many.

There’s a sense of construction working here that will likewise make many sit up and take notice. Few first releases are so sturdy. There is a discernible movement over the course of this album from the highly ambient, but nevertheless grounded efforts of the first quarter, the more traditionally minded arrangements of songs in the album’s second quarter, a few songs that attempt to bring those elements closer together in the third quarter, and a final wonderfully elegiac number to close the release. The production style seems to evolve with the songs. O’Brien favors a more cluttered style on some songs like the title cut and the later doom-laden “I Know”. The duo’s descent into musical darkness is usually marked by a sharp uptick in colliding elements and tightening, impatient melodies. Everything sounds in flux and up for grabs when the duo’s mood darkens.

The more outwardly progressive pieces, like “The Magnetic North” and the album’s penultimate tune “Alter Eagle”, never lean too heavily on the electronica at the expense of other elements. “Moon and Pollution” is much like those songs in intent, but there’s a bit more traditional structure tethering the song to earth. The Box Borealis rarely flirts with anything even faintly smacking of commerciality, but the heart of the album features two memorable pieces. “Darkroom Double” doesn’t have the same outright menace as “I Know”, but there is a bite here and melodic value outstripping most of its surrounding numbers. “Solace Sandwich” is the album’s other effort in this vein and while it has a much catchier hook, the lyrical content ultimately pales in comparison to “Darkroom Double”.

“The Lonely Quiet” makes every attempt to embody its title and provides The Box Borealis with a suitable final curtain. To go further, this is the ideal way of ending such an album. After the stormy electronica textures have faded, the jagged guitar work goes silent, and the drums pull back, Moon & Pollution bring things to a gentle finish.

9 out of 10 stars.

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Michael Saulman